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Nov 1 / Dave Schumaker

The Lisbon Earthquake: 250 Years Later

Residents fleeing after the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake250 years ago today, on November 1st of 1755 at 9:20 in the morning, a great earthquake struck the unsuspecting city of Lisbon, Portugal. The quake, as well as the tsunami and fires that followed completely devastated the city, destroying nearly 85 percent of all buildings. Upwards of 90,000 died is Lisbon alone, while across the Straight of Gibraltar, another 100,000 were thought to have perished in Morocco.

The Prime Minister Sebastião de Melo (the Marquis of Pombal) survived the earthquake. “Now? Bury the dead and feed the living,” he is reported to have said, and with the pragmatism that characterized his coming rule, the Prime Minister immediately began organizing the recovery and reconstruction.

He sent firefighters into the city to extinguish the flames, and ordered teams to remove the thousands of corpses. Time was short to dispose of the corpses before disease spread. Contrary to custom and against the wishes of representatives of the Church, many corpses were loaded onto barges and buried at sea beyond the mouth of the Tagus. To prevent disorder in the ruined city, and, in particular, as a deterrent against looting, gallows were constructed at high points around the city and at least 34 were executed. The Portuguese Army was mobilized to surround the city to prevent the able-bodied from fleeing, so that they could be pressed into clearing the ruins.

Via Wikipedia and About.com.

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