The Great Lisbon Earthquake
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The Great Lisbon Earthquake

The Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 devastated not only Lisbon but much of southwestern Europe and adjoining North Africa with effects felt as far away as Finland and the coasts of the Antilles Islands in the Caribbean Sea. To compound the situation in Lisbon the city was successively struck by fire and a devastating tsunami that came roaring up the Tagus River. The quake also gave rise to the science of seismology.

Lisbon,Portugalin 1755 was one of the most beautiful cities inEuropewhen it was struck with a devastating earthquake onNovember 1, 1755.  The earthquake struck at9:30 amand was centered in theAtlantic Oceanabout 200 kin west southwest ofCape St. Vincent.  This was the event that came to be known as “The Great Lisbon Earthquake.”  The event ushered in the modern science of seismology.

It also has been extensively depicted in the art and literature of the time.  It wasn’t just the earthquake but the accompanying fire and tsunami that devastatedLisbon.  Many of the pictures and scholarly articles about the earthquake were reproduced for centuries following the quake itself.

Even though it was not the most deadly or strongest earthquake in history the Lisbon quake not only affected Portugal but was felt throughout Europe and was to have a profound and lasting effect.  The total duration of the earthquake that was delivered in three distinct jolts lasted for about ten minutes.  The worst damage happened in southwesternPortugalwithLisbonbeing the largest and most important cities to be damaged.

The earthquake was not only felt in Portugal but also in adjoining parts of Algiers, France, Morocco and Spain, and seiche waves were observed as far north the lakes of Finland.  It has been suggested that the magnitude of this earthquake reached 9.0 on the Richter scale. 

The quake itself caused much damage but it was to be followed by much worse.  The next calamity that befellLisbonwas a fire started by cooking fires that ravaged much of the city causing many inhabitants to flee their homes.  Some of these fires were quickly extinguished in the more densely populated parts ofLisbon, but many people fled their homes and allowed the fires to burn unchecked.

Disasters sometimes come in bunches as they did on that day inLisbon.  Many of the people of the city who were fleeing the fire took to boats in theTagusRiverthat runs through the city.  They hadn’t anymore gotten to the boats when a tsunami roared up theTagusfrom theAtlantic Ocean.  This happened about a half hour after the quake with waves up to six meters high these waves flattened more of Lisbon and killed or injured many of the people that had taken to the boats on the river.

In addition to the damage inLisbonmany people living along the coast were killed by the tsunamis.  The waves of which there were three reached heights of more then 30 meters (100 feet) in parts of southwest Portugal and caused extensive damage in western Morocco with many fatalities.  Several hours after the quake the tsunami generated by the quake reached theAntillesin theCaribbean Seawhere it reached as high as the second stories of buildings along the coast.

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Comments (1)

Thanks for sharing this history.