The Lisbon earthquake of 1755: the very first natural disaster of modern times

Every year thousands of earthquakes occur on Earth. Most of them are weak, so they go unnoticed, but some cause the destruction of buildings and deaths. Such natural disasters have always happened, even during the time of the dinosaurs, because tectonic plates are constantly colliding in the depths of our planet. Unfortunately, scientists know little about the consequences of earthquakes in ancient times. The first natural disaster of this kind was documentedin 1755Then, on All Saints' Day, an earthquake and subsequent tsunami turned the Portuguese capital of Lisbon into ruins.

The Lisbon earthquake of 1755: the very first natural disaster of our time. Consequences of the Lisbon earthquake according to the DALLE-3 neural network. Photo.

The consequences of the Lisbon earthquake according to the DALLE-3 neural network

Lisbon earthquake in 1755

On the morning of November 1, 1755, the residents of Lisbon were preparing for All Saints' Day. On this holiday, Catholics go to church services, visit cemeteries and place flowers on the graves of loved ones, and so on.

Nothing foreshadowed trouble. However, at 9:40 am the ground began to shake under the Portuguese feet. Within about 6 minutes, they felt three tremors. According to modern scientists, one of the shocks had a magnitude of 8.5 to 9.0 points, but these are only approximate data, because in those distant times no one knew how to estimate the power of earthquakes.

Lisbon earthquake in 1755. Illustration of the Lisbon earthquake in 1755. Photo.

Illustration of the Lisbon earthquake of 1755

If scientists' estimates are correct, then at a magnitude of 9 on the Richter scale, all houses in Lisbon should have collapsed. This is exactly what happened: panic-stricken people began to hide in their homes and churches, and then died under the rubble. Many townspeople ran to the water.

The earthquake destroyed almost all the buildings in the Portuguese capital, but that's not all. In those days, the rooms were illuminated with lamps and candles; due to strong shaking, they fell and caused terrible fires. The wind spread the fire to other structures, and soon the entire city was on fire.

According to the recollections of the Reverend Charles Davy, who was in the city during this natural disaster, a cloud of smoke and dust rose into the air, which completely blocked the sunlight. People fled in panic and loudly begged for mercy.

Everyone should know this:How to predict an earthquake and what to do when it starts

When there was a tsunami in Portugal

Due to the devastating earthquake and fire in Lisbon, many people died. Residents who thought of escaping to the water had a much better chance of surviving. Unfortunately, they were faced with an even more terrible problem.

About 40-45 minutes after the end of the earthquake, the Portuguese sawa 6-meter tsunami wave approaching.It covered people and destroyed buildings and killed even more people. Scientists believe that the Lisbon earthquake,fire and tsunami killed 50,000 people.Thousands of residents who miraculously managed to survive left the city; they simply had nowhere to live. In addition to ordinary houses, even the royal palace with works of art was destroyed.

When there was a tsunami in Portugal. Illustration of the Lisbon tsunami. Photo.

Illustration of the Lisbon tsunami

The results of modern research indicate that the source of the Lisbon earthquake was somewhere in the sea, but the exact location is impossible to determine. It was not only Lisbon that suffered from this natural disaster. The tremors are believed to have affected the southern part of the Iberian Peninsula, as well as parts of North Africa. It is possible that an additional 10,000 people died in these regions.

Read also:What was the height of the largest tsunami

The worst natural disasters

Today, the Lisbon earthquake is considered the very first natural disaster in modern history. In addition, it is the worst in Europe over the past 500 years. Based on everything written above, this disaster can easily be added to our selection of the most destructive earthquakes in the history of the Earth. In ancient times, earthquakes were more deadly because buildings were not protected from tremors. Today's buildings, especially skyscrapers, have such protection. But, unfortunately, powerful earthquakes still rarely occur without casualties.

The most terrible natural disasters. Earthquakes often take people by surprise, which causes numerous casualties. Photo.

Earthquakes often take people by surprise, which causes numerous casualties

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We know little about ancient earthquakes, because they did not leave any special traces behind them. However, scientists can tell a lot of interesting things about destructive volcanic eruptions. The most famous natural disaster of this kind is, of course, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. It caused the disappearance of the cities of Pompeii, Stabia, Herculaneum and a number of other lesser-known Roman settlements. You can read more about this in our article “The largest volcanic eruptions in human history.”