On This Day

The 1930 Earthquake Which Flattened Bago

By Wei Yan Aung 5 May 2019

Eighty-nine years ago today, a powerful earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale rocked Bago, killing at least 500 people.

The earthquake, one of the strongest in Myanmar’s recorded history, occurred at 8.18 p.m on May 5, 1930. Many pagodas and temples, including the famous Shwemawdaw Pagoda, were damaged or destroyed, while all brick buildings and two-thirds of wooden houses collapsed.

A large fire also broke out as a result of the earthquake and newspapers of the time compared the post-earthquake scene in Bago to a massive graveyard. They reported that burnt bodies were found everywhere and the air was filled with the awful smell of the dead.

In some places, dogs and birds were eating the decomposing bodies, as reported by the newspapers which suggested that people with anemia or heart problems avoid visiting the town. They also estimated that at least 1,500 people were injured as a result of the earthquake.

The earthquake was also felt in Yangon where over 50 people were killed and many properties were damaged. The diamond bud on top of the Shwedagon Pagoda fell as a result of the severe tremors. This was the last time Yangon, the most densely populated city of Myanmar, experienced such a devastating earthquake.