Fascinating True Stories From the Flip Side of History

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Podcasting Since January 2008

1755 Lisbon Tsunami

It was first reported on November 25, 1755, that Lisbon, Portugal had been hit with a dreadful earthquake.  News traveled slowly in those days, so the exact date of the earthquake was on Saturday, November 1st, which just happened to have been All Saints Day.  

The King and Queen of Portugal did survive, as did their great palace, but the overall death toll was immense.  The article indicates that the death toll was about 60,000 people, but to this day no one knows for sure.  The population of Lisbon was estimated to be approximately 200,000 people, so whether it was 40,000 or 60,000 doesn’t make much difference.

What is definitely known is that the survivors of the strong earthquake raced to the shoreline and piled up on the docks to watch the water recede and reveal the naked ocean floor below.  Sadly, we all know today what they didn’t know back then.  A giant wave, what would many years later be called a tsunami, would come back in and engulf the entire area in water said twenty-two feet (6.7 meters) in height.  Fires raged for days afterward and consumed a large portion of Lisbon, claiming even more lives.

The Earthquake of 1755, painted from 1756 to 1792 by João Glama Ströberle (1708-1792).
The Earthquake of 1755, painted from 1756 to 1792 by João Glama Ströberle (1708-1792). Currently in the National Museum of Ancient Art, Lisbon, Portugal. Wikipedia image.
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