In 1846 inhabitants of Jamestown, St. Helena, were astounded when a huge wave suddenly appeared 500 yards from shore and smashed thirteen ships in the harbor to kindling. Boats farther out to sea were unaware of the tsunami.
In Lisbon, a bustling city of 275,000 people in 1755, a strong earthquake occurred in the morning of All Saints' Day (November 1st). Buildings buckled and collapsed, fires started about, and the ground cracked in several areas of the city.
Frightened people, the clergy, and shopkeepers trying to salvage their goods, assembled in the great square by the river Tagus. All were on their knees at prayers, when a 2nd earthquake struck. It was less violent, but many buildings weakened by the first now collapsed.
But worse was yet to come. In an instant there appeared in the Tagus, at some small distance, a large body of water, rising as it were like a mountain. It came on foaming and roaring, and rushed towards the shore with such impetuosity and violence, that most people were swept away. The water went back with equal rapidity, tossing and tumbling ships about. People who had clambered into boats were swallowed up, as in a whirlpool, and never more appeared.
Tsunami about to strike villagers in Babi Island, 1992.
The 50 foot tsunami demolished a new quay, killing those who had taken refuge there. Afterwards, a 3rd shock set the sea rushing in and out again.
By nightfall, there were fires in at least a hundred different places. It was said that flames were bright enough to read by. They destroyed everything the earthquake and tsunamis had spared.
People were so dejected or terrified that few tried to salvage anything. The fires would burn for 6 days and destroy up to 85% of the city, including many churches, along with the patriarch's palace, the Inquisition's headquarters, 30 monasteries, scores of convents, and the brand new Phoenix Opera house. The Royal Ribeira palace with its 70,000 volume library and works of art, along with the royal archives and their priceless records of the journeys of Vasco da Gama and other Portuguese explorer, also went up in smoke. In total, Lisbon lost over 17,000 buildings, and as many as 90,000 people were killed.
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