When it comes down to hazardous natural events that have happened back in Yugoslavia, one that gets most mentions is possibly the 1963 earthquake in Skopje which wiped out nearly 80% of the Macedonian capital. Far from less disastrous however was the 1979 Montenegro earthquake which had a moment magnitude of 7.2 as much as a maximum Mercalli intensity of X, that means it was stronger than the one in Skopje.
The quake also stimulated a tsunami as tall as six meters. Over hundred people lost their lives, and thousands of buildings including sacred sites and churches on the territory of Montenegro got erased from the Earth’s surface. A second shake nearly as powerful as the first followed two days later, plus over 90 more aftershocks measured more than four degrees on the Richter in the days after.
“I was awakened in Belgrade at 7:20 a.m., when my bed began shaking violently, and the windows started rattling,” would go one statement following the grim morning of April 15 that year. The quake was not only felt in Belgrade but as far as in Ljubljana, Zagreb, Sarajevo, and Skopje, at a different scale of course. Also around thirty of the earthquake victims were reported to be from neighboring Albania.
The natural hazard left an unimaginable trail of destruction along Yugoslavia’s golden vacation resort. The most prominent survivor of this event was none other but President Tito, then 86 years old.
According to reports, at that point, Tito has been resting at his residence at Igalo, just across the entrance of the bay of Kotor, and well in the proximity of the first quake’s epicenter. Tito would later state for reporters that it was fortunate that the earthquake did not take place on a working day.
What the first shake didn’t collapse to the ground, the second one made sure to finish. One of the worst affected cities on the beautiful Adriatic coast was the ancient walled city of Kotor, where as much as 80% of the town’s buildings were said to be uninhabitable.
In the resort of Budva, farther down the coastline, four hotels had collapsed that were situated in the old town area. At one point near then-Titograd (at present the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica), a large enough part of a highway section crumbled into the sea taking with itself a small peninsula. So did the ancient harbor of Kotor hours before.
It was only further devastating to what happened to Budva’s Old Town, one of the affected Montenegro’s Cultural Heritage Sites. Out of the roughly 400 something buildings in this area, only eight had remained intact. The hazard has even managed to damage the site’s 15th-century walls and ramparts. The famed Sveti Stefan and Milocer also underwent considerable damage.
Other such sacred and protected areas got raised to the ground in Ulcinj and its Old Town. Last but not least, Herceg Novi, the youngest of all Montenegrin towns added to the list of earthquake-affected cities. Entire parts of the city walls would collapse into the Adriatic here. As well as did hundreds of coastal villages in the vicinity of all these cities.
Numerous works of art and treasured collections, some of the national importance, were lost in ruins. Following the shaky spring of 1979, Montenegro would remember long years of recovery and restoration of its tiny but precious coast.
We also thought to remind you of Nepal, its constant narrative of loss and undying resilience