A high number of damaging earthquakes occurred in March 2022: Five casualties and more than 20,000 damaged buildings resulted.
With 39 damaging earthquakes this month, March 2022 had the largest amount of damaging earthquakes in many years. Fortunately, quantity does not necessarily mean quality. Thus the overall damage was only moderate and distributed over a large number of events. In addition, two countries with previously no damaging earthquake (since 2013) were affected: Norway and Paraguay. Of these 39 quakes, three of them resulted in a total of 5 casualties. A total number of 20693 buildings were damaged, 302 people were injured and 5771 displaced.
The earthquake with the largest media attention in March 2022 was the Mw7.3 quake off the coast of Japanese prefecture Fukushima on March 16th which lead to an official Tsunami Advisory (no warning) and wave heights of a few decimeters along the eastern coast of Honshu. Relative to the size of the quake and the high population density, only limited damage was caused. In the latest statement, Japanese Fire and Disaster Management Agency reported around 10.000 damaged buildings of which 600 suffered major damage. 241 injuries and 3 casualties which were mainly panic-related and resulted from accidents while fleeing from buildings. However, with an Impact Value of 2.26 this quake became the most destructive earthquake of the month globally.
Two more fatal earthquakes occurred in Ecuador in Pakistan. The M5.8 Ecuador on March 27th quake affected the region Esmeraldas, which was likely an aftershock of the destructive M7.8 in April 2015. Around 6600 buildings were damaged, 600 of them severely so that more than 4000 people were displaced. Besides one casualty resulting from a panic-related heart attack, only one person was slightly injured in this quake.
The fifth earthquake casualty in March was related to an earthquake sequence in northern Pakistan. Several M>4 earthquakes have hit the districts Skardu and Gilgit over a two week period, damaging several hundred homes and causing extensive infrastructure disruptions due to landslides. One person was killed by a rockfall, several more got injured. The strongest quake of this sequence, which was preceded by even stronger quakes in December, reached Magnitude 5.1.
Further quakes with significant losses have hit the Peruvian region of Arequipa and the Algerian town of Bejaia. In Arequipa, a new earthquake sequence related to Sabancaya volcano occurred in mid-March. The strongest quake with M5.5 caused damage to around 900 buildings. Around 100 families were displaced. More than 1700 damage reports followed the M5.2 near Bejaia on March 19th, 30 people were injured, mostly due to panic-related accidents.
Following the M7.3 Fukushima earthquakes, waves of up to 30 cm were observed. Additionally, two strong earthquakes (M6.9 and 7.0) near the french Loyality Islands south of Vanuatu caused Tsunamis with amplitudes of 5 and 7 cm. No damage was caused by any of these events.
Significant landslide activity followed the earlier mentioned earthquake sequence in Northern Pakistan. Smaller ones were reported after quakes in Iran (March 4th, M4.3), the Arequipa quake in March 16th, the Fukushima quake on the same day, the Japan quake on March 18th (M5.5) and the M6.6 Taitung (Taiwan) quake on March 22nd. In each of these cases, limited damage to roads or other infrastructure followed.
A mine collapse in southern Poland on March 29th, detected as a 2.9 earthquake, lead to a minor accident where one miner was slightly injured.
The M5.2 earthquake offshore Norway on March 21st and the M3.5 in Paraguay on March 31st were the first damaging earthquakes for these countries since 2013, when recordings for the Earthquake Impact Database began. However, in both cases damage was limited to superficial cracks in a few buildings.