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After Europe’s worst natural disaster Reggio Calabria commemorates its 1908 earthquake victims

To read original newspaper articles go to:


New York Times

Times Newspaper


Gazzetta Del Sud Special Edition:

Cento anni

Commemorating the Centenery of the Strait of Messina Earthquake



Go  to the Official Site

The 1908 earthquake was the first ‘national’ catastrophe Italy had to face since unification. Both Messina and Reggio Calabria were almost completely razed to the ground.

Three days after Christmas, on the 28 December 1908, while everyone was sleeping, at exactly 5:21am, Reggio Calabria shook violently for a long 31 seconds. Tremors were felt as far away as Russia! Reality not just an unthinkable nightmare. Measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale, this natural and unavoidable disaster cost thousands of people their lives. It is estimated that 25,000 people perished in Reggio Calabria and 65,000 in Messina. Reggio lost 27% of its inhabitants; Messina lost 42%.
Ten minutes after the catastrophic earthquake those who tried to escape running towards the open spaces of the coast were engulfed by a 10 metre high tsunami. In all 3 tidal waves measuring 6-12 meters swept away the whole waterfront.
At the time of the tragedy seismic activity was measured using the Mercalli Scale only. The unprecedented wide - spread devastation of the 1908 earthquake prompted Mercalli (who ironically also taught in Reggio Calabria) to add another intensity level: 11.
The rest of Italy had no idea of what was happening when the earthquake struck; all means of communication with the outside world were severed. With telegraph and telephone lines not working a wireless telegraph service was arranged by ships in the Mediterranean Sea.


The first to begin the rescue operations was a fleet of Russian warships on the morning of the 29th The Admiral Makarov and two other Russian ships: Slava, Tsesarevich, which at the time were in Augusta. This marked the beginning of a massive international relief operation. On the 30th British ships started arriving from Malta; French, German and Italian ships followed suit. Upon hearing about the disaster, President Roosevelt also offered America’s help; four ships from the Great White Fleet: Connecticut, Illinois, Culgoa, and Yankton, were dispatched immediately to provide crucial humanitarian aid and provisions.


Europe had never seen such destruction. It was the first time Europe and America had joined together in solidarity to help earthquake victims.


Ships arrived with surgeons, nursing sisters, medical supplies, military medical officers, field ambulances, bedding etc. Temporary wooden barracks were put up and all emergency supplies of food, clothing and medication were dispatched.


Relief funds were set up worldwide. Stamps and cards were also sold with the proceedings going to numerous earthquake funds.

Did you know?

Calabria is part of the most active seismic belt in Italy: the Calabrian Arc

Some of Calabria's Earthquakes often associated with destructive tsunami:







Calabria is a highly seismic region. Some scientists believe violent earthquakes hit at intervals of roughly 100 - 1000 years.

-      Your home should comply with seismic building regulations. Earthquakes cannot be prevented or stopped so it is wise to consider adding earthquake insurance to your building insurance policy.

-       There are also a few things you should know and do in the event of an earthquake. For guidance search: "WHAT TO DO DURING AN EARTHQUAKE"


-      For Civil Protection Services Call: Protezione Civile - Regione Calabria: 800 222211