ABSTRACT

This research appraises the most known destructive earthquake that occurred in the second most important Algerian city, along with the seismic history of that city. The earthquake that struck Oran in 1790 and that was the reason for the leaving of the Spanish, who had been colonizing the city since the early sixteenth century, is cited in innumerable documentary sources; however, few scientific studies were devoted to this specific event. These studies, which in general are exclusively based on Spanish sources, show that the 1790 Oran earthquake is quite different from the other known destructive seismic events that occurred in Algeria in its historical and recent times. To better constrain the 1790 earthquake location and magnitude, an investigation of Algerian sources was performed in the documentary assets. In this article, the historical details are assessed from the perspective of the social and political situations contemporaneous with the event, and the macroseismic field is reconstructed using, for the first time, the Algerian sources jointly with the European sources. Our reappraisal of the 1790 Oran earthquake shows how difficult it is to assess the characteristic parameters of an earthquake that occurred amid war because the macroseismic information is strongly influenced by the effects of the conflict, and the reliability of the data sources is thereby limited. This study highlights how important is to take into consideration the historical and sociological context when analyzing the macroseismic information of any historical earthquake. Our critical review of this seismic event and its comparison with other destructive Algerian earthquakes show that the 1790 Oran earthquake was not as large as past studies had led us to believe. We reevaluated the maximum intensity from IX–X European Macroseismic Scale (EMS) in previous studies to VIII EMS.

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