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Casamicciola, Ischia

kah sah mee kee oh lah,  ees kiee ah


NY Times March 7, 1881



Rome, March 6--The loss of life by the earthquake on the island of Ischia is appalling.  One hundred and two bodies have been found at Casamacciola up to the present, and many others are under the ruins of the buildings.  In the village of Lacco alone 13 houses were destroyed and 5 persons killed.

London, March7.--A dispatch to the News from Rome states that 300 houses have fallen at Casamacciola.  The Government is sending relief.  A correspondent at Naples says 110 corpses have been recovered and 67 wounded have been sent to the hospitals.

A dispatch from Rome reports that the earthquake at Casamacciola opened fissures in the streets 50 centimetres wide.  Many people fled from the town and encamped in the fields.




London, March 7.--The following are additional details of the earthquake at Casamicciola, on the Island of Ischia:  The first shock occurred at 1:30 o'clock on Friday afternoon, and the second an hour later.  The whole upper part of the town was destroyed and 2,000 establishments seriously damaged.  The details confirm the damage to property and loss of life and injury to people previously mentioned in these dispatches.  The Syndic and Sub-Prefect are directing operations for the recovery of the bodies of the victims.  The royal steamers Naguna, Pagona, and Esploratore have arrived from Naples with soldiers and physicians.  The soldiers have rescued many from the ruins.  The population have fled to the surrounding country and along the sea-coast.  The Government is sending food from Naples.  The King and the Minister of the Interior have sent a contribution for the relief of the sufferers.  The second and fatal shock lasted seven seconds, accompanied by noise like subterranean thunder.  Then came a crash of falling houses, accompanied by shrieks of the victims.  The probable loss of life will reach 200.  The damage to house property is 1,000-ooof.  It was at first supposed that the disaster was connected with the partial eruption of Mount Vesuvius on the 3d inst., but Prof. Palmieri states that the seismographic instruments gave no indications of a disturbance on the 4th inst.  He says he thinks the catastrophe was due to some local phenomenon, possibly to sudden sinking of the ground in consequence of corrosive action of the mineral springs.

London, March 8.--A dispatch from Naples reports that another shock of earthquake occurred at Casamacciola Monday.  Eleven more bodies have been found.                  

A dispatch from Rome says the latest reports show that 126 persons have been killed and 179 injured by the earthquakes.


From  the New York Times. Tuesday, July 31, 1883  

The Earthquake at Ischia

Those exhibitions of the wild power of the forces of nature which are most terrible and fatal to human life are made without warning.  It is true that volcanic eruptions are generally preceded by signs which are understood by those who are in danger, and which enable them to escape, but no one can tell where the tornado will cut its deadly swath, although the coming of a storm may be foreseen, and the shock of an earthquake finds no one prepared for it.  The blow, whether it comes from the angry air or from the groaning depths of the earth, falls with pitiless force upon those of the human race who are within its reach, and their lives are blotted out.  There is no more safety around the altars of religious worship than in the seats of a house of entertainment.  The danger is as great in a cathedral as in a theatre, for either may become the grave of thousands who are in it.

"Some of the most charming regions in the world are continually exposed to horrible disasters like that which has fallen upon the vineclad Island of Ischia.  This island where the dead bodies of thousands who were living and happy on Saturday evening are now lying crushed under the ruins of houses, hotels, and public buildings, lies only 20 miles from the beautiful Bay of Naples.  Its people cultivate the grape, or are engaged in fishing, but the fame of its springs of cold and of warm mineral waters draws thousands of tourists and invalids to its shores every year.    The medicinal baths were near the town of Casamicciola, where scarcely a house has been left standing, and upon the sloping hillsides were hundreds of villas occupied by wealthy families, whose homes are in Naples or elsewhere on the mainland.   The villas of the rich and the houses of the poor are now in ruins, and the bodies of the occupants are either awaiting identification or still buried under fallen stones and timbers.   An earthquake is not a rare visitor in Ischia, for nearly 800 houses in the town that has now ceased to exist were destroyed with 100 lives, two years ago by two shocks, the second following the first after an interval of eleven days."

After years of investigation very little is known about the causes of these movements of the earth's surface.  The most diligent student of seismology is forced to confine his inquiry almost entirely to the results, although he may indulge in speculation more or less interesting concerning the origin of the fatal disturbance.  If we assume that slight shocks, felt over a small area, are caused by the fall of roofs of great cavities far below the surface, we cannot account in the same way for the mighty earthwaves that shook down the housewalls of Lisbon in 1755 and brought death to 60,000 persons, for these waves, spreading from Lisbon as a center were felt over the Continent of Europe and by ships far out at sea.  The shocks continued for many days.  It may be that modern seismologists are right in describing an earthquake as a vibratory motion propagated through the solid material of the earth, and proceeding from concussion or a sudden blow delivered underground at some centre of impulse; but what is the blow or the act that starts the vibration?  Is it the force of steam escaping from a rocky prison, after it has been formed by the admission of surface water through fissures to the heated or molten matter supposed by some to be under the earth's crust?  The arguments of some eminent scientific men tend to overthrow the doctrine that the earth has a liquid core, but the steam theory seems to be one of the most reasonable of those by which attempts have been made to account for volcanic action.  Whatever may be said, however, about the probable origin and cause ofthe shock, it is very plain that the most careful investigation will yield no facts that can serve to warn or protect the people.

When the vibrations proceed from a centre of impulse that is under the sea, a water wave as well as an earth wave is sometimes generated.  This water wave rolls in upon the shore after the earth shock has been felt and may engulf those who have escaped from falling buildings.  The water wave was 60 feet high at Lisbon, and the great waves that swept away so many lives, a few years ago on the western coast of South America was another example of this movement of the sea.  It does not appear that such a wave accompanied the earthquake at Ischia, and this may support the theory advanced that Prof. Palmieri, who is of opinion that the shock was caused by a subsidence of the surface. Due perhaps to the breaking of some mighty arched roof in the bowels of the earth.


APRIL 2O, 1884


Naples Letter to the London Daily News

What has been actually done for the sufferers by the earthquake in Ischia is thus summed up by the Naples press:  Much more than a50,000f. (the sum contributed by France) was promptly distributed among the inhabitants, not counting the food and shelter afforded to all the destitute.  No one in Casamicciola has been starved for want of bread and all the poor actually derived advantage from the catastrophe, the proprietors and work people only being really hurt in their economical condition.  The regrettable delay in the distribution of the millions in the hands of the Central Committee has been caused by the difficulty of ascertaining the real truth of the proportions of the damage done.  When the committee willing to give prompt help, asked for the first personal declaration, 7,231 were sent in. The total amount of the damage declared by these being 30,000,000f. The most respectable residents of the island requested the committee not to believe these statements, and 11 engineers were sent to ascertain the actual damage done to movable and immovable property, a proceeding which reduced the sum total of damage to 11,000,000f.  All this took time, as well as the calculations as to the proportions in which the several sufferers were to be compensated: but to-morrow, March 21, the Central Committee will finally complete their work, their conclusions will be approved of, and then there will be nothing more to do but begin the material liquidation, a work which will take but a few days.  The sums will be distributed next month, when it is to be hoped that all questions connected with the practical assistance to the sufferers will be satisfactorily closed.  Whether Casamicciola will speedily or ever be restored to a flourishing bathing place, even though a wooden-housed one, depends in a great measure on the practical genius or otherwise of the proprietors on the island. 

Human Interest Dimension

The following is taken from a letter written by an Italian soldier who spent the remaining days of his Army duty in Casamicciola after the July 1883 earthquake.

On August 10th, there was a terrifying earthquake tremor and the soldiers, working on a bell tower, were grateful it did not collapse. The next day, August 11th, there was another earthquake tremor and on 25 August they excavated the inside of a palace of a very great gentleman and found seven dead bodies, all crushed in a tomb.

Even in these tragic times there is the element of humor, August 12 while wandering through the dining room of the Palazzo Dei Bagni, the two soldiers found a pair of boots, and as they pulled the boots they heard wind breaking and ran. (It was the very alive cook)

There was another earthquake tremor on August 17th and on August 20th while excavating a storehouse of wheat and corn a very fat pig, as soon as it saw light, escaped down the road.

On 27 August the soldiers dug through the rubble at the destroyed church; surprisingly they found all the saints sound as though they had not been under rubble except for St. Michael's hand which had fallen. At Bascio alla Marina, the grateful soldiers made a procession of the saints and prayed to them and thanked them for saving them from future tremors.

On 29 August there was a very heavy rainfall, 2 September another tremor, 5 September another very heavy rainfall which lasted three days and on 12 September they excavated a very large storehouse of macaroni and cheese and lard and salami and wine and oil and etc.

On September 16th another very heavy rainfall covered Casamicciola with water which manifested a stench, worse than the entombed bodies.

Finally on 21 September, the exhausted soldiers received their long awaited discharges, leaving the rubble of Casamicciola behind them.


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