March 20, 1861 The Argentine city of Mendoza is struck by a devastating earthquake. With a magnitude 7.2 on the Richter scale and an intensity of IX on the Mercalli scale, it is the most lethal earthquake ever to have hit Argentina.
Within a few minutes the entire city had collapsed. The human loss was colossal: more than 5,000 people were killed (around half of the population) and 750 others left wounded. Mendoza was entirely rebuilt following new sets of criteria to avoid a repeat of the catastrophe: there was a preference for single-storey houses, large squares and wider roads and pavements. Founded in 1561, Mendoza city is located at the foot of the cordillera in the Andes, in the western centre of Argentina. It constitutes the country’s fourth biggest agglomeration in terms of population and surface.
Also on March, 20: Publication of Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity (1916); Tunisia gains independence from France (1956), failed attempt at the kidnapping of Britain’s Princess Anne and her husband Mark Phillips outside Buckingham Palace (1974); Basic Instinct is released in US cinemas (1992).
Born on March, 20: Napoléon II (1811), Vera Lynn (1917), Catherine Ashton (1956), Spike Lee (1957), Fernando Torres (1984).