Last Updated on 2022/01/11
1908 Messina Earthquake
In 1908 an earthquake and tsunami hit Messina and Reggio (in the Messina Strait, Sicily-Calabria) causing 123,000 deaths.
The 1908 Messina earthquake is considered one of the most catastrophic seismic events of the 20th century. Half of the population of Messina and a third of Reggio Calabria lost their lives. It is one of the deadliest natural catastrophes in Europe for the number of victims.
Both cities were almost completely destroyed.
On December 28, 1908, the ground shook for some 30 to 40 seconds, and the destruction was felt within a 300-kilometer (186-mile) radius (magnitude of 6.7-7.2).
A 12-meter (39-foot) tsunami struck nearby coasts, causing even more devastation; 91% of structures in Messina were destroyed and some 70,000 residents were killed.
The tsunami was 8 meters high and killed almost 2.000 people
Rescuers searched through the rubble for weeks, and whole families were still being pulled out alive days later, but thousands remained buried there.
The Italian navy and army responded and began searching, treating the injured, and evacuating refugees (as did every ship). Looters soon had to be shot. King Victor Emmanuel III and the Queen arrived.
With the help of the Red Cross and sailors of the Russian and British fleets, search and cleanup was expedited.
The earthquake was caused by normal faulting between plates.
In the years following 1908, precautions were taken when reconstruction began, building architecture that would be able to withstand earthquakes of variable magnitude.
In the midst of a reconstruction, many of the Italian residents were relocated to various parts of Italy. Others were forced to emigrate to America.
In 1909 the cargo ship Florida carried 850 such passengers away from Naples. Lost in a dense fog, Florida collided with the Republic, a luxury passenger liner.
Three people aboard Florida were killed instantly. Within minutes, pandemonium broke out on the ship.
The captain of the Florida, Angelo Ruspini, used extreme measures to regain control of the desperate passengers, including firing gunshots into the air.
Eventually, the survivors were rescued at sea and brought into the New York harbor where they would start a new life.
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