Earthquake in Rio Dulce, Guatemala
11 July 1999 8:14 AM CST

Collapsed house

There have been many rumors about the earthquake damage in Rio Dulce, Guatemala. Many people are worried about tourism and damage to the tourist facilities. Miraculously, hardly any damage occurred to tourist facilities, marinas or hotels!

The epicenter of the quake was located under the seafloor 20 miles east of the mouth of the Motagua River along the Motagua Fault and the hypocenter six miles below the surface. The magnitude has been calculated at 6.7 on the Richter scale. Rio Dulce is about 60 miles west of the epicenter so the shaking here was strong.

Miraculously, no deaths and few injuries occurred in the immediate area. Overall, 2 deaths and 40 injuries have been attributed to the quake.

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The damage to structures is highly variable, depending on the type of soil underneath each building. Steel reinforced concrete buildings on solid pads suffered little or no damage. Most structures built on pilings, or over the water, suffered some damage. In some cases, the damage is severe or total. Numerous homes on the river shore collapsed or simply sank completely as the soil liquefied and became like quicksand during the shaking.

None of the sailboats suffered any damage!

Cracks up to 3 inches wide appeared in the streets. As is typical with an earthquake, when the gyrations stopped, every point on the ground came to rest slightly displaced. Thus, many buildings are slightly out of square, staircases and walkways were separated from buildings by as much as 3 inches. Pipes were broken everywhere. After the quake, Fronteras had no potable water and no electricity but these were quickly restored.

Hotel Catamaran, Hotel Backpackers, Brunos, Banana Palms, Hacienda Tijax, Rosita's, and all of the 20 or so hotels and motels in Fronteras are OK and operating normally. Marios Marina, Mango Marina, Hacienda Tijax Marina and Bruno's Marina are all OK.

As far as tourist facilities and marinas go, only two were damaged severely: At Xalaja, the main rancho, restaurant and dining room were completely destroyed - it is gone - disappeared into the riverbed. The other facility to suffer damage was Suzanna's Laguna. The restaurant is unstable, the showers were destroyed and many of the piers and walkways are down and in the water but this is all being rapidly repaired.

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The famous bridge across the Rio Dulce was damaged. Click here to view details and photos.

The orphanage at Casa Guatemala was also seriously damaged with 90 percent of the buildings and facilities destroyed. Click here to view photos and a message from Angelina Galdamez, the director of Casa Guatemala.

The current count is 26 homes on the shore of the river destroyed or badly damaged. Below is a partial list:

casanorm.jpg (14080 bytes) Norman Shaw's house (Mini Marina) is destroyed and he was slightly injured. His friend who was also in the house at the time is in a body cast with broken and fractured ribs and two cracks in his back. Philip Farr's 9 foot tall concrete wall fell over and crushed the two-story house flat. Norm had to dig himself out from under the house. The dog and tiger were presumed dead but the dog appeared 5 days later. Six days later, the tiger also appeared but after two days, died for no apparent reason. Later, the dog also had to be put to sleep.

The new shorefront house with the red roof is destroyed.

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qbru17a.jpg (6155 bytes) The roof is at water level. The house sank completely into the riverbed.

Rusty's house is badly damaged and the floors are warped. One corner sank almost to water level. The boathouse roof fell on one of the local motoryachts.

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qbru15a.jpg (7077 bytes) Jim ("Ocho de Marzo") and Ileana Gibbs' house was destroyed. (note the piers under the house).

Selva Perdida (at the foot of the bridge on the south shore) was destroyed.

Kenny and Michelle's house was destroyed. ('Jus Passin' Thru).

Ranchon Mary was closed for several days but is back to normal. The bridge connecting the parking lot with the restaurant was destroyed.

Collapsed house

Most all of the stores in Fronteras, Tienda Reed and the store at Mario's Marina suffered heavy financial losses because their merchandise was thrown to the floor and broken. Some of the stores in Fronteras who have merchandise stacked to the ceiling had messes over a meter deep throughout the store consisting of a sea of soda pop, coffee, broken glass, broken eggs, house paint, soap and myriad other substances. All of this was cleaned up with remarkable speed and the stores are back to normal.


Bridge Damage
Casa Guatemala Quake Damage
Casa Guatemala Information

Page last updated Wednesday 12 Aug 1999
November 9, 2012
© 1997-2012 Phillip Landmeier