Lisbon Earthquake Essay

This essay has a total of 1118 words and 6 pages.

Lisbon Earthquake



The earthquake began at 9:30 on November 1st, 1755, and was centered in the Atlantic
Ocean, about 200 km WSW of Cape St. Vincent. The total duration of shaking lasted ten
minutes and was comprised of three distinct jolts. Effects from the earthquake were far
reaching. The worst damage occurred in the south-west of Portugal. Lisbon, the Portuguese
capital, was the largest and the most important of the cities damaged. Severe shaking was
felt in North Africa and there was heavy loss of life in Fez and Mequinez. Moderate damage
was done in Algiers and in southwest Spain. Shaking was also felt in France, Switzerland,
and Northern Italy. A devastating fire following the earthquake destroyed a large part of
Lisbon, and a very strong tsunami caused heavy destruction along the coasts of Portugal,
southwest Spain, and western Morocco.


In 1755 an earthquake, followed by a tidal wave and a fire, destroyed much of the
city.Soon after the earthquake, several fires broke out, mostly started by cooking fires
and candles. Some of them were rapidly extinguished, especially in the densely populated
areas. But many inhabitants fled from their homes and left fires burning. Narrow streets
full of fallen debris prevented access to the fire sites. The public squares filled with
people and their rescued belongings, but as the fire approached, these squares were
abandoned, and the fire reached catastrophic proportions. Looters setting fire to some
ransacked houses caused the belief that the fire had a criminal origin. The flames raged
for five days.

All of the downtown area, from St. Paul's quarter to St. Roch, and from Carmo and Trindade
to the Rossio square area to the Castle and Alfama quarters were burned, along with the
Ribeira, Rua Nova, and Rossio quarters. Remolares, Barrio Alto, Limoeiro, and Alfama, were
partially burned.

Several buildings which had suffered little damage due to the earthquake were destroyed by
the fire. The Royal Palace and the Opera House were totally gutted by the flames. The
Patriarchal suffered relatively little damage in the earthquake, and religious services
continued there during the afternoon, but the church was evacuated as the fire approached.
Later the building was completely burned out.



Immediately after the earthquake, many inhabitants of Lisbon looked for safety on the sea
by boarding ships moored on the river. But about 30 minutes after the quake, a large wave
swamped the area near Bugie Tower on the mouth of the Tagus. The area between Junqueria
and Alcantara in the western part of the city was the most heavily damaged by the wave,
but further destruction occurred upstream. The Cais de Pedra at Rerreiro do Paco and part
of the nearby custom house were flattened.

A total of three waves struck the shore, each dragging people and debris out to sea and
leaving exposed large stretches of the river bottom. In front of the Terreiro do Paco, the
maximum height of the waves was about 6 meters. Boats overcrowded with refugees capsized
and sank. In the town Cascais, 30 km west of Lisbon, the waves wrecked several boats and
when the water withdrew, large stretches of sea bottom were left uncovered. In coastal
areas like Peniche, 80 km north of Lisbon, many people were killed by the tsunami. In
Setubal, 30 km south of Lisbon, the water reached the first floor of buildings.

The destruction was greatest in Algarve, southern Portugal, where the tsunami dismantled
some coastal fortresses and, in the lower levels, razed houses. In some places the waves
crested at more than 30 m. Almost all the coastal towns and villages of Algarve were
heavily damaged, except Faro, which was protected by sandy banks. In Lagos, the waves
reached the top of the city walls. For the coastal regions, the destructive effects of the
tsunami were more disastrous than those of the earthquake.

In southwestern Spain, the tsunami caused damage to Cadiz and Huelva, and the waves
penetrated the Guadalquivir River, reaching Seville. In Gibraltar, the sea rose suddenly
by about two meters. In Ceuta the tsunami was strong, but in the Mediterranean Sea, it
decreased rapidly. On the other hand, it caused great damage and casualties to the western
coast of Morocco, from Tangier, where the waves reached the walled fortifications of the
town, to Agadir, where the waters passed over the walls, killing many.
Continues for 3 more pages >>




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