At 21:22, on the evening of March 4, 1977, Bucharest was hit by an earthquake measuring a whopping 7.3 on the Richter scale. It lasted for almost a minute, during which time almost every building in the Romanian capital shook wildly. More than 1,500 people were killed by the quake, including a number of celebrities, most notably comedian Toma Caragiu, at the time the most popular actor in the country.
The earthquake – the epicentre of which was in Vrancea – was felt across the whole Balkan peninsula. The Bulgarian town of Svistov was badly affected, with three blocks of flats collapsing there: more than 100 people were killed. In Romania, it was not just Bucharest that suffered: the town of Zimnicea on the Danube was almost totally destroyed, and countrywide, more than 11,500 people were injured, and 35,000 homes destroyed.
The terrifying first minute of this video is a recording of the earthquake, made by Romanian Radio, which was recording a concert at the time.
Located close to a major fault line, Bucharest has been shaken by a number of major earthquakes over the years. In 1940, more than 300 people died – most of them when the so-called Carlton Block, in Piata Universitatii collapsed – in the first major quake of the modern era. Though few other buildings were fully destroyed, many were damaged, and it was the failure to consolidate these buildings effectively that led to the carnage of the 1977 quake.