1908 Messina earthquake
The 1908 Messina earthquake and tsunami
A tsunami is a series of water waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of a body of water, typically an ocean or a large lake...

 took some 100,000–200,000 lives on December 28, 1908 in Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 and Calabria
Calabria , in antiquity known as Bruttium, is a region in southern Italy, south of Naples, located at the "toe" of the Italian Peninsula. The capital city of Calabria is Catanzaro....

, southern Italy.


On December 28, 1908 from about 05:20 to 05:21 an earthquake
An earthquake is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust that creates seismic waves. The seismicity, seismism or seismic activity of an area refers to the frequency, type and size of earthquakes experienced over a period of time...

 of 7.2 on the moment magnitude scale
Moment magnitude scale
The moment magnitude scale is used by seismologists to measure the size of earthquakes in terms of the energy released. The magnitude is based on the seismic moment of the earthquake, which is equal to the rigidity of the Earth multiplied by the average amount of slip on the fault and the size of...

 occurred centered on the of city Messina
Messina, Italy
Messina is the third largest city on the island of Sicily, Italy and the capital of the province of Messina. It has a population of about 250,000 inhabitants in the city proper and about 650,000 in the province...

, in Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

. Reggio Calabria
Reggio Calabria
Reggio di Calabria , commonly known as Reggio Calabria or Reggio, is the biggest city and the most populated comune of Calabria, southern Italy, and is the capital of the Province of Reggio Calabria and seat of the Council of Calabrian government.Reggio is located on the "toe" of the Italian...

 on the Italian mainland also suffered heavy damage. The ground shook for some 30 to 40 seconds, and the destruction was felt within a 300 km radius. Moments after the earthquake, a 12 m tsunami
A tsunami is a series of water waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of a body of water, typically an ocean or a large lake...

 struck nearby coasts causing even more devastation. 91% of structures in Messina were destroyed and some 70000 residents were killed. Rescuers searched through the rubble for weeks, and whole families were still being pulled out alive days later, but thousands remained buried there. Buildings in the area had not been constructed for earthquake resistance, having heavy roofs and vulnerable foundations.

Relief efforts

News of the disaster was carried by Italian torpedo boats to Nicotera
Nicotera is a comune in the province of Vibo Valentia, Calabria, southern Italy.-History:Nicòtera origins lie with the ancient Greek city of Medma which was founded by the Locresis of Locri Epizephyris....

, where the telegraph lines were still working, but that was not accomplished until midnight at the end of the day. Rail lines in the area had been destroyed, often along with the railway stations.

The Italian navy and army responded and began searching, treating the injured, and evacuating refugees (as did every ship). Looters soon had to be shot. King Victor Emmanuel III
Victor Emmanuel III of Italy
Victor Emmanuel III was a member of the House of Savoy and King of Italy . In addition, he claimed the crowns of Ethiopia and Albania and claimed the titles Emperor of Ethiopia and King of Albania , which were unrecognised by the Great Powers...

 and the Queen arrived.

The disaster made headlines worldwide and international relief efforts were launched. With the help of the Red Cross and sailors of the Russian and British fleets, search and cleanup were expedited. The British battleship
A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns. Battleships were larger, better armed and armored than cruisers and destroyers. As the largest armed ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea and represented the apex of a...

HMS Exmouth (1901)
HMS Exmouth was a Duncan class predreadnought battleship of the Royal Navy. HMS Exmouth was laid down by Cammell Laird at Birkenhead in August 1899, launched in August 1901 and finally completed in May 1903...

 and the cruiser
A cruiser is a type of warship. The term has been in use for several hundreds of years, and has had different meanings throughout this period...

s Euryalus
HMS Euryalus (1901)
HMS Euryalus was a Cressy-class armoured cruiser in the Royal Navy. Though the class was already obsolete by the outbreak of the First World War, the Euryalus and her sisters Aboukir, Bacchante, Hogue and Cressy were assigned to patrol the Broad Fourteens of the North Sea, in support of a force of...

, Minerva
HMS Minerva (1895)
HMS Minerva was a second class protected cruiser of the Eclipse class.Minerva was laid down at Chatham Dockyard, Kent, on December 4, 1893, and was floated out on September 23, 1895. It was scrapped in 1920....

, and Sutlej
HMS Sutlej (1899)
Named after one of the five great rivers of the Punjab, HMS Sutlej was a Cressy-class armoured cruiser in the Royal Navy. She served with her sisters in the First World War, and was one of the three who survived the war. Already obsolete by the outbreak of war, she was sold on May 9, 1921 and...

 were ordered to provide assistance; the SS Afonwen was in Messina harbor during the quake (anchored in 45 fathoms (80 m) of water, but there were only 30 fathoms (55 m) when she sailed full of refugees). The French battleships Justice and Vérité, and three torpedo boat destroyers were ordered to Messina. The U.S. Great White Fleet
Great White Fleet
The Great White Fleet was the popular nickname for the United States Navy battle fleet that completed a circumnavigation of the globe from 16 December 1907 to 22 February 1909 by order of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. It consisted of 16 battleships divided into two squadrons, along with...

 and her supply ships Celtic
USS Celtic (AF-2)
USS Celtic was an Celtic-class stores ship acquired by the U.S. Navy for use in the Spanish-American War. She served again during World War I in the dangerous North Atlantic Ocean, delivering general goods and ammunition to American Expeditionary Force troops in Europe.- Acquisition for...

 and Culgoa
USS Culgoa (AF-3)
USS Culgoa was a refrigerated supply ship in the United States Navy.Culgoa was built in 1889 by J.L. Thompson and Sons, Ltd. of Sunderland, England and purchased at Cavite, Philippines on 4 June 1898. During the naval blockade of Manila, the vessel supplied the American squadron with ice and meat...

 were also ordered to assist. Russian ships included the Slava
Russian battleship Slava
Slava was a pre-dreadnought battleship of the Imperial Russian Navy, the last of the five s. Commissioned too late to participate in the Battle of Tsushima during the Russo-Japanese War, she survived while all of her sister ships were either sunk during the battle or surrendered to the Imperial...

, Tsesarevich, and Admiral Makarov. Other nations' ships also responded.


The earthquake was caused by normal faulting between plates
Tectonic Plates
Tectonic Plates is a 1992 independent Canadian film directed by Peter Mettler. Mettler also wrote the screenplay based on the play by Robert Lepage. The film stars Marie Gignac, Céline Bonnier and Robert Lepage.-Plot summary:...

. Italy sits along the boundary zone of the African Continental plate
African Plate
The African Plate is a tectonic plate which includes the continent of Africa, as well as oceanic crust which lies between the continent and various surrounding ocean ridges.-Boundaries:...

 and this plate is pushing against the seafloor underneath Europe at a rate of 1 inches (25.4 mm) per year. This causes vertical displacement which in turn can cause earthquakes. Recently it has been proposed that the concurrent tsunami was not generated by the earthquake, but rather by a large undersea landslide it triggered. There were also several fires that destroyed houses and turned them to rubble.


In the years following 1908, precautions were taken when reconstruction began, building architecture that would be able to withstand earthquakes of variable magnitude, if one should strike again. In the midst of reconstruction many of the Italian residents were relocated to various parts of Italy. Others were forced to emigrate to America
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. In 1909 the cargo ship Florida carried 850 such passengers away from Naples. Lost in a dense fog, the Florida collided with the Republic
RMS Republic (1903)
RMS Republic was a steam-powered ocean liner built in 1903 by Harland and Wolff in Belfast, and lost at sea in a collision six years later while sailing for the White Star Line. A CQD distress call was issued on the new Marconi radio device, the first recorded, resulting in the saving of around...

, a luxury passenger liner. Three people aboard the Florida were killed instantly. Within minutes, pandemonium broke out on the ship. The captain of the Florida, Angelo Ruspini, used extreme measures to regain control of the desperate passengers, including firing gunshots into the air. Eventually the survivors were rescued at sea and brought into the New York harbor where they would start a new life.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.