Earthquake zones in Germany

Earthquakes in Germany are relatively weak but occur several times a year, some of them in coal mining areas where blasting sets them off. Following a 4.0 quake, attributed to mining and centered in Saarwellingen, around 1,000 demonstrators protested on 24 February 2008, demanding an end to mining work. Reportedly, the tremor knocked over chimneys and caused power outages.[1]

Most of the quakes occur in a seismically active zone associated with the Rhine Rift Valley that extends from the Swiss city of Basel into the Benelux countries, in particular in the "Cologne Bight". There are also earthquake zones on the northern edge of the Alps, around Lake Constance, in the Vogtland, around Gera and in the Leipzig plain.[2] [3]


Main article: Geology of Germany

Germany is transected by parts of the European Cenozoic Rift System, particularly the Upper and Lower Rhine Grabens, and these areas remain tectonically active today. This zone of intraplate deformation is caused by the continuing effects of the Alpine orogeny as the African Plate continues to push northwards into the Eurasian Plate.[4]

Seismologists consider earthquakes up to 6.4 on the Richter scale theoretically possible in the Lower Rhine Graben seismic zone.[5] Earthquakes there occur sporadically and at magnitudes that are relatively low by international standards. However, the region is the most seismically active and experiences the strongest quakes in Germany. A strong earthquake (approximately 5.5 to 6.0 on the Richter scale) occurs there approximately every 200 years on average. A stronger earthquake would endanger cities including Aachen, Bonn, Düren, Düsseldorf, Grevenbroich, Heinsberg, Koblenz, Mönchengladbach, Cologne and Leverkusen as well as cities in the Netherlands including Roermond, Maastricht and Sittard and in Belgium including Eupen and Liège.

Notable earthquakes

1356 Basel earthquake

Main article: 1356 Basel earthquake

On 18 October 1356, an earthquake with its epicentre between Waldkirch and St. Peter in Breisgau-Hochschwarzwald destroyed the city of Basel in Switzerland and killed at least 300 people there alone; there was widespread damage from the quake and its precursor and aftershocks, and the main quake, estimated at 6.2 to 6.5 Mw, was felt as far away as Paris.

1756 Düren earthquake

Main article: 1756 Düren earthquake

On 18 February 1756, at about 8 am, one of the strongest earthquakes in Central Europe, the strongest reported in Germany to date, struck Düren.[2][6] The hypocentre is judged to have been at 14–16 km.[7] It followed the 1755 Lisbon earthquake by several months and was the culmination of a series of quakes in Germany that had lasted several years. Buildings were damaged in Cologne, Aachen, Jülich and Bad Münstereifel; shaking was felt in London, Magdeburg and Strasbourg. Based on damage reports, the quake was assessed at VIII on the Mercalli intensity scale,[8] and is today thought to have been approximately 6.1[2] or 6.4[8] on the Richter scale. The earthquake caused two deaths and severe damage in Düren, two deaths and one serious injury in Cologne. Portions of the city walls collapsed in Düren and Bad Münstereifel. Some of the hot springs in Aachen ran dry, while others increased in strength. A spring at Breinigerberg ran dry. The water table fell in open tin and lead mines; some became dry.[9]

1951 Euskirchen earthquake

On 14 March 1951, shortly before 11 am, a magnitude 5.8 quake with epicentre near Euskirchen injured 11 people and caused significant damage. Chimneys and roof tiles fell. Many people in Cologne took refuge in bomb shelters.[10] This earthquake led to the establishment of the earthquake monitoring centre at Bensberg to provide data on seismic activity in the Rhineland.[11][12]

1992 Roermond earthquake

Main article: 1992 Roermond earthquake

On 13 April 1992 at 3:20 am, a 5.3 Mw[13] quake with its epicentre 4 km southwest of Roermond, the Netherlands, and its hypocentre 18 km deep shook the border region for 15 seconds.[14] 30 people were injured in North Rhine-Westphalia alone, mostly by falling roof tiles and chimneys,[15] and there was considerable damage to buildings. Ground shifts of up to 2 m occurred, and sand fountains in a few locations.[16][17][18] The quake was felt as far away as Milan and London. The worst damage in Germany was in Heinsberg;[10] in the Netherlands the area of damage extended several kilometres northwest of Roermond. Total damage costs in Germany topped 150 million DM, in the Netherlands, 170 million guilders.[14][15] Aftershocks continued until 31 May.[15]

2009 Moers earthquake

On 24 July 2009 at 4:58 am, an earthquake with a magnitude of 3.3 MW struck in western Germany, 20 km (12 mi) northwest of the city of Duisburg.[19][20][21] The Geological Service of North Rhine-Westphalia announced the connection with mining confirmed by a 3.1 magnitude aftershock on 31 July 2009.[22]

2011 Koblenz earthquake

A 4.4 magnitude earthquake struck western Germany on 14 February 2011, at 13:43 local time. The earthquake epicenter was at Nassau an der Lahn, 65 km (40 mi) WNW from Frankfurt am Main. There were no immediate reports of damage.[23][24]

Other earthquakes in Germany

Date Location Magnitude Damage / other notes
813 Aachen unknown Damage to royal chapel and collapse of passageway between it and the palace.
829 Aachen unknown Some damaged buildings
1223 Cologne unknown
1348 Altenberg unknown
18 September 1640 Düren unknown Damage to houses in Düren and Cologne.
1661 Dortmund unknown Tower of St. Reinoldi's church damaged; later collapsed.
16 February 1673 Remagen unknown Earthquake destroyed parts of the castle at Rolandseck.
1692 Aachen unknown Tower of St. Augustine's church collapsed.
26–27 December 1755 Aachen unknown Several moderate earthquakes in the Aachen area.
19 January 1757 Aachen[25] unknown
1758 Aachen[25] unknown
1759 Aachen[25] unknown
9 June 1771 Aachen[25] unknown
15–16 July 1773 Aachen[25] unknown
23 February 1828 Aachen[25] unknown
19, 22, 31 October 1873 Herzogenrath unknown Damaged buildings reported.
1877 Herzogenrath unknown Damaging quake
26 August 1878 Tollhausen unknown One person killed, damage to buildings. In Aachen numerous fallen chimneys, damaged buildings.
18 November 1881 Aachen unknown Strong quake felt in Aachen, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Arnsberg, Münster, and parts of Belgium and the Netherlands; aftershock on 24 November.[26]
4 October 1886 Thuringia unknown "Violent earthquake shocks have occurred throughout Thuringia and other parts of Central Germany."[27]
16 November 1911 near Albstadt on the Swabian Alb ML=6.1[2]
20, 23 November 1932 Aachen unknown
22 January 1970 Tübingen unknown a quake in Baden-Württemberg shook the metre-thick walls of the castle tower in Tübingen[10] and caused damage to the pilgrimage church of Maria Zell near Hechingen that took 4 years to repair.[28]
19 February 1971 Roermond, Netherlands ML=4.7 Earthquake with epicentre near the German border
2 June 1977 Soltau[29] 4.0
3 September 1978 Swabian Alb ML=5.7 The Hohenzollern Castle, home of the German Kaisers, was closed after sustaining extensive damage due to an earthquake in the Swabian Alb. 15 persons were reported injured in Tailfingen, Burladingen and Onstmettingen.[30] 20 people had to be dug out of rubble.[10]
24 May 1982 Waldfeucht ML=3.2
1983 Liège ML=5.1
11 December 1985 Simpelveld, Netherlands ML=2, 3.5 Two earthquakes across the border at Simpelveld in the Netherlands, registering 2 and 3.5 on the Richter scale.
13 March 1989 Vacha 5.7 Blasting at a potash mine in East Germany was blamed for a quake measured at 5.7 and felt in neighboring West Germany as well. Three villagers in the East German village of Vacha were injured.[31]
22 July 2002 Alsdorf 5.0 At 7:41 am, magnitude 5.0, VI on the Mercalli scale at the epicentre, at a depth of 14.4 km: no injuries, some damage to buildings. The quake was felt in some parts of the Ruhr.
20 October 2004 Neuenkirchen 4.5 Before 9:00 am, a 4.5 quake, largest in the area since 1977.[32]
5 December 2004 Waldkirch 5.2 Epicenter in Waldkirch close to Freiburg im Breisgau. Damage worth 10 million euros, mostly from cracks in walls.[33]
3 August 2007 Plaidt 3.9 At 4:58 am, a magnitude 3.9 quake, felt in Koblenz, Westerwaldkreis, Rhein-Sieg-Kreis, Euskirchen, Bonn and Cologne.[34]
12 December 2007 Duisburg 3.2
24 January 2008 Duisburg 3.0
10 September 2009 Westerwaldkreis 2.7 At 2:40 pm, a magnitude 2.7 quake with epicentre at Eitelborn caused alarm in Montabaur, Neuwied, and Bad Ems.[35]
8 September 2011 Xanten 4.5 At 9:04 pm, a magnitude 4.5 quake with epicentre at Xanten.
30 March 2014 Darmstadt 3.2 At 5:48 pm, an M3.2 quake hit Darmstadt
17 May 2014 Darmstadt 4.2 At 6.46 pm, Darmstadt was hit by a magnitude 4.2 quake.[36]
8 June 2014 Darmstadt 3.3 An M3.3 earthquake hit Darmstadt at 4:15 pm
30 July 2019 Konstanz 3.7 An M3.7 earthquake hit Konstanz at 1:17 am[37]
29 August 2019 Konstanz/[[]] [de] 3.5 An M3.5 earthquake hit Konstanz/Dettingen [de] at 4:22 pm[38]


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  23. ^ "US Geological Service". Archived from the original on 2011-02-17. Retrieved 2017-09-03.
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  36. ^ [2],, May 17, 2014.
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  38. ^ "Quake info: Light mag. 3.5 earthquake - Freiburg Region, 5.1 km southwest of Überlingen, Germany, on Thursday, 29 August 2019 at 14:22 (GMT) - 170 user experience reports".