Panama is in the “Ring of Fire“,  a series of volcanoes and plate movements where the majority of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. We have felt a number of earthquakes since we have been in Panama.

By Gringer (talk) 23:52, 10 February 2009 (UTC) – vector data from [1], Public Domain,

There are a number of tectonic plates under us in including the Caribbean Plate, and when they shift around we are likely to feel the ground shifting underneath us.

Look, we even have our own Panama Plate!

We were in Boquete Sunday evening. The band was packing up after their afternoon gig, and I was seated and talking when everything started to bump, shake, and roll. I heard glass breaking as something fell off the shelf in the bar. It’s a very strange sensation, like a sudden loss of equilibrium. You expect the ground to be a solid thing under you and when it isn’t, it takes a moment to figure out what’s going on. I can see how it would be frightening because there is no where to go, nothing to do except maybe get out of the way of anything that could fall on you. Thankfully here, in our experience, the quakes cause minimal damage beyond things falling off shelves, like in this David supermarket.

This quake was a 5.3 in Cerro Punta. If you look at Volcan Baru from above, our nearby volcano, Boquete is at about at 3 o’clock, and Cerro Punta is about 12 o’clock so the epicenter wasn’t far. The quake was strong enough that it was felt all the way through central Panama. People said there were two aftershocks following the main quake, but we were probably driving home then and didn’t feel them.

Then Monday, yesterday, we were in Boquete again enjoying an afternoon pot luck. I was again seated and talking with someone when we felt the ground shake. This felt short and mild, but it still registered 4.1 and was again located in Cerro Punta.

Here’s the link to an earthquake tracking site, and as you can see we have quite a few in this area.  We don’t always feel them depending on how strong they are and what we are doing, but if we miss one we definitely hear about it because it’s the talk of the town for a day or two. El tremblor! Lo sentiste? Si si, muy fuerte! Wao. (thankfully not much goes on around here, so an event like this is a big deal)

Since we were in Boquete, I’ll close with a few photos taken yesterday.

It did rain in Boquete but not until after we arrived, and it stopped by the time we left so we got lucky. They got a good soaking but there wasn’t a drop of rain in David. We had quite a bit on Sunday though so we are very happy.


About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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29 Responses to Earthquakes!

  1. Oh! Glad no serious damage or injuries. Makes me wonder whether there’d be a a chance of Volcan Baru reviving given how close it is to Cero Punta, given the quake activity? I’ve looked at web photographs of Cero Punta on Google maps and always thought how beautiful the area is.


    • I wonder about a quake that does cause serious damage and injuries. Something that strong must feel crazy!
      Cerro Punta is gorgeous, one of my favorite areas. The farms are up the sides of the mountains which is something to see.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. It was one of the strongest quakes we felt since the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 in SF Bay area.
    This had nothing to do with Volcan Baru. It is an officially classified dormant volcano.


    • Baru hasn’t done anything for 400-500 years, but I’ve heard that it isn’t actually dormant. Lets hope it stays quiet!


      • Here’s a link to a scientific study of Volcan Baru and the relationship between earthquakes and volcanic eruptions (and yes, Volcan Baru is not extinct). (Long read but worth the effort).
        Extract: “Volcán Barú is a potentially active volcano in western Panamá, about 35 km east of the Costa Rican border. The volcano has had four eruptive episodes during the past 1,600 years, including its most recent eruption about 400–500 years ago. Several other eruptions occurred in the prior 10,000 years. Given this history, Volcán Barú will erupt again, following some premonitory period of seismic activity and subtle ground deformation that may last for days or months. Future eruptions will likely be similar to past eruptions—explosive and dangerous to those living on the volcano’s anks. Outlying towns and cities could endure several years of disruption in the wake of renewed volcanic activity. Thus, when Volcán Barú becomes restless, national, provincial, and local of cials need to respond swiftly.”


  3. oldsalt1942 says:

    So YOU’RE the reason….STOP GOING TO BOQUETE and everything will be just hunky dory…


    • But… but… sometimes a gal just has to party with the band!


      • Robert&Helen says:

        Do not worry Kris. We had a 7.4 earth quake in November 2007 in Saint Lucia (Caribbean). I lasted for 2 minutes and quite some after shocks.Not much damage as the houses were made of heavy reinforced concrete blocks and others of wood that can shake. Some minor cracks in government buildings. We had 3 devastating hurricanes during our stay over there. Good music of Joel Me3 last Sunday. Thanks for gimmie some more loving.


        • I’m not worried. People seem to build sturdy structures that can withstand some shaking. I’ll take earthquakes over hurricanes. After many years in Florida I have seen what they can do, and even where they don’t hit they cause lots of worry and evacuations and anxiety.

          You were at Mike’s last Sunday?! Well darn, I was too, but we apparently missed each other. I’m usually somewhere up front not far from the band. They are playing this Sunday at the Boquete Brewery, 5PM and again at Mike’s on the 29th, 7PM.


  4. Glad all’s fine there, and hopefully those two quakes released the tension so things will be quiet again. The anniversary of Ecuador’s 7.8 is in 11 days…. they said there was one ‘bump’ and then 8 minutes later,it was like a bucking bull out of the chute…


    • Wow, that must have been crazy! This was enough, tossed a few things off shelves and gave us something to talk about. Yours though, if I remember caused a lot of deaths and destruction. How far was it from you? Did you come through OK?


      • people in jama often say, ‘the technical information might say that the epicenter was up the coast, but the damage here compared to all other areas suggests that the epicenter was jama… there are way too many people still struggling just to have enough money to buy food and hope for a new pair of shoes, such as the story of my friend marcos, who lost his wife and three of four children that night.
        itmakes us realize how lucky we are, and for me, my sundry problems are nada compared to those still living in tents.


        • And, something like this makes the news and help pours in until the next news event, and then it is forgotten even though people struggle to recover for years after. I know, we are so fortunate. So much of the world is full of people who struggle to just survive.


  5. jim and nena says:

    Hola Kris,
    glad everyone is OK. The bumps are just part of living in Panama, just the earth shrugging its shoulders sometimes. Without the shrugs there would be no Panama or mountains. All the experts can’t agree on exactly how or when Panama actually plugged the gap between the continents so knowing what happens next is anyone’s guess.

    I agree on Cerro Punta, Nena had a couple of aunts up there that had large farms at one time (40 years ago). Tia Rosa and tia Fina had trucks hauling produce to Panama City almost nonstop it seemed. Panama didn’t import food then, there were lots of farms growing enough to feed everyone. The whole area was planted in all sorts of crops; how they farmed those slopes is amazing. Those were some of the hardest working people in Panama.

    The Bambito Hotel on the way to Cerro Punta was also beautiful. I don’t know how it is doing now, haven’t been up that way in years, but then it was a shock to see the place suddenly appear around the curve in the road. Remember to bring a jacket, though! 🙂


    • Shrugging it’s shoulders LOL Yes indeed. We were told that earthquakes happen here on a somewhat regular basis, and we have felt quite a few since living here.
      Yes, Cerro Punta is beautiful, and sometimes chilly too. I can’t remember when we went by the Bambito Hotel. Maybe a year ago? Everything looked normal, beautiful place.


  6. Wow!!! That must be scary. I’m glad you didn’t take a photo of a liquor store. I’d hate to see all those broken bottles 😉


    • Here wine and liquor is sold in the supermarket. I did see one photo of wine bottles broken on the floor. Don’t worry though. Some wine is sold in boxes that wouldn’t break, and they make a lot of good rum here so that’s easily replaced.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Loved those pics! I recall experiencing my first quake in Wasilla, Alaska, July 1984 ~ unforgettable.


  8. Sunni Morris says:

    We had lots of quakes while living in alaska and California. After a while it’s usually no big deal and you around like usual. The hanging lights would swing and stuff like that, but no real damage where we lived, but one of the quakes in Alaska caused the front porch ( cement slab) to fall about 3 feet and the fridge and bed to slam against the opposite wall. That one woke us up.


  9. jim and nena says:

    My uncle was homesteading in Alaska near Chitina in 1964 when the 8.4 quake occurred. He was living in the log cabin he had built which survived but he said he was “tossed about” a bit. After years of living among elk and grizzly bears, not much scared him.

    If anything like that ever happens near Central America it could be disastrous.


    • tossed about? Ahh yes I would think so. There was a really big quake last year in Ecuador and it was a disaster, people killed, towns leveled, and many haven’t recovered yet. I imagine it would be similar here if that happened.


  10. David says:

    Loma Prieta , back in 1989,, California , I was just getting off work in silican valley , had a pick up truck with a camper on the back ,, was getting ready to move to las. Vegas in about a week ,, it was a asphalt parking lot , I had the door open just about to step in the truck when the ground groweled very loud and I kid you not the asphalt turned into a wave , like ripple and I had to hold onto the door to keep my balance , luckily I was out of the building because it rocked back and forth like a tree in a strong wind , Windows broke and you could hear people screaming all the way out in the parking lot ,, being in security at the time ,, I ran back inside when the shaking stopped jumping over gapping pot holes ,, it was a mess ,, power was out in some places for almost a week many many people died that day .


    • Whoa! That sounds like a whopper of an earthquake. I remember hearing a lot in the news about how bad it was. I hope nothing like that happens again in such a populated area but I know they are always at risk.


  11. David says:

    Does lava ever flow ?? I lived in California for about 20 years so I can deal with earthquakes , but vocanoes , would be new to me but I still like the idea of Panama as a retirement place


    • Lava flow here? No, Volcan Baru is our active volcano but it hasn’t done anything for 400-500 years, and according to the volcano experts it is still sleeping quietly. Other volcanoes in Central America are more active though. I just saw some news about one in central Costa Rica that erupted yesterday, and I believe there is another, Arenal, that likes to spit out rocks most of the time, just to mention a couple. From what I understand volcanoes tend to give you warning signs so people can be moved to safety, and even if ours does something I think David is too far away to be affected except by displaced people and general mayhem in the area.


  12. It is interesting that you didn’t feel it in a car. It kinda makes me wonder it is because you were already moving or because it wants as bad as the one you have felt. Another thing I was thinking about is it safer in the car during an earthquake?


    • Yes, I think you don’t feel it in the car because you are already moving. I totally missed one when I was on my bike too. I think the main danger is things falling off shelves.


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