June 11, 1909, earthquake in Provence

France's most violent earthquake of the 20th century

Photo d'illustration-André Abbe

At 9:00 pm on June 11, 1909, the earth began to tremble some 50 kilometers north of Marseille, devastating Lambesc, the epicenter of the quake, followed twenty minutes later by a second tremor.

With an estimated magnitude of 6, the earthquake killed 46 people, seriously injured 250, left many homeless and devastated several surrounding villages.

While Lambesc was the epicenter, the most violent tremors were felt in the Trévaresse region of Provence. In the few seconds that the tremors lasted, entire villages were destroyed. Facades collapsed, bell towers toppled, killing over forty people in six villages: Lambesc, Rognes, Saint-Cannat, Pélissanne, Puy-Sainte Réparade and Vernègues.


Beyond the epicentral zone, the earthquake affected a very wide area of France: no less than twenty départements felt the vibrations, whether violently, as in Bouches-du-Rhône, Vaucluse, Var and Gard, or more gently, as in Pyrénées-Orientales and Haute-Loire.

Abroad, the earthquake was felt in Italy, in the regions of Liguria and Piedmont, and in Spain as far away as Barcelona, and in the months that followed there were no fewer than twenty aftershocks.

Claude Boyer

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