Lisbon Earthquake 1755


The date is November 1st, 1755, All Saints’
Day. Unbeknownst to the people of Lisbon, Portugal,
their day was about to get a lot worse. The slow buildup of stress between the African
and Eurasian plates was violently released, triggering a cataclysmic earthquake. Buildings were damaged, some beyond repair,
but that was only the beginning of the devastation. Lisbon is situated dangerously close to the
ocean, and as hundreds of people flocked to the waters, the waters themselves retreated. As the people watched stunned, they stood
in the shadow of their final moments. In less than an hour, those receded waters
would flood and raze Lisbon further. The water plowed up the Tagus river; and two
more waves would follow. The waves and the earthquake had knocked over
candles that were left out in celebration for All Saints’ Day, these candles caused
a firestorm to erupt, which consumed the city, decimating the city even further. In the wake of the earthquake, and the tsunami,
and the fire, only 15% of Lisbon’s buildings remained. 10,000 to 40,000 people are thought to have
perished that day, with some believing the catastrophe was God punishing them. In the wake of the earthquake, the tsunami,
and the fire, there was tons of environmental damage, along with the destruction of the
city. 600 counts of damage were recorded with ESI-07
scale damage. The tsunami that followed the earthquake flooded
the area around Lisbon. In total, there were 18 slope movements, 15
cases of ground cracking, 19 cases of liquefaction, 153 hydrogeological anomalies, and 217 hydrological
anomalies. There were 66 tsunami records along 200km
of the Spanish littoral in the Gulf of Cadiz. After the earthquake, King Joseph I of Portugal
developed a fear of walls, and refused to live within them, setting up a camp of tents
and pavilions to house his court. He also had the city completely redesigned,
with the old medieval streets replaced for new, wider ones. The city’s streets were redone, allowing
for this modernization. Buildings were designed that could resist
and survive earthquakes. The homes had wooden frames that were built
around, and the frames were tested by building scale models and having soldiers march around
them, simulating earthquakes. These were some of the first earthquake resistant
buildings in Europe, and today they’re one of the biggest attractions of the city. In the end, the city was almost completely
rebuilt from the ground up, but there are still reminders today, such as the Carmo Convent,
whose ruins still serve as a terrible reminder of this terrible event.

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