Sunday, July 29, 1883
The Earthquake in Italy
A calamity which destroys thousands of lives in a city and wrecks the fortunes of the survivors leaving their houses mere ruined sepulchers and their gardens yawning graves is necessarily one of the saddest events of life. The whole story of the destruction of Casamicciola will not be known for days, possible never, for if the damage done is as great as the early reports represent it to be it will be impossible ever to learn the full tale of victims. With many death and permanent sepulture will have been simultaneous, and if the city's site be again utilized it will be over the graves of hundreds of its citizens. it is impossible at this time to judge with any accuracy of the number of persons killed and injured by such an occurrence. Society becomes completely disorganized by fright, as were as by the destruction of all landmarks and standards by which to discover the extent of the damage. it is difficult for persons in this country to comprehend the horror of so sweeping a misfortune. Probably the nearest approach to such an experience was that of the people of Chicago in their great fire nearly twelve years ago. But even the wiping out of all the buildings of a great city could not produce the overpowering sense of helplessness that accompanies an earthquake. Even those who have lived all their lives in places where earthquakes are frequent gain little or no courage from their experience. The writer has seen a crowded ball room cleared in the few seconds intervening between the beginning of a trembling and the solid shock which usually announces the end of the motion; and yet nine tenths of those who displayed such agility in getting out were accustomed to at least three or more shocks yearly. The mind instantly becomes possessed of one idea, to the exclusion of all others, namely, that short of flying there is no means of reaching a place of absolute safety.
From the accounts received thus far it is probable that the involvement of the earth was neither an upheaval nor an undulation. it seemed to be a general sinking unmarked by most of the usual phenomena of an ordinary earthquake. It is well known that earthquakes maintain a close relation to volcanic action but there are certain peculiarities about nearly every large movement of the earth's surface which make it impossible to frame a theory that will account for all the characteristics of earthquakes. Doubtless this one may have introduced a new variety of incidents to puzzle scientific men but at present the known facts point to a sudden subsidence of the earth's crust unaccompanied by any violent volcanic action in the neighborhood where the earth-movement occurred. This is rendered more certain by the absence of all action of the water in the adjoining bay. Wherever a genuine volcanic earthquake takes place on the sea coast there is sure to be a violent disturbance of the sea sometimes causing an emptying of the bays seaward followed by a tremendous incoming wave so swift strong and high as to sweep all before it. In the harbor of St. Thomas in 1867 the tidal wave following an earthquake carried two American men of war up into the town and after floating them over the roofs of the first line of warehouses left one of them high and dry upon the shore, three hundred yards from the water. Similarly , in Peru in 1868, the Wateree was swept ashore two miles inland, where she was dismantled and left. No such tidal wave was noticed at Ischia on Saturday nor were there any shocks or undulations on shore. The place is said to be fitly described in homely phrase as a town of which the bottom has "slumped out" It is possible, of course, that volcanic activity will be found to have been developed at some point of the earth's surface very distant from Ischia for such distant sympathy is not uncommon; but at present it would seem as though the gradual cooling of internal fires might have left the surface unsupported at Ischia, compelling the sudden falling in of the earth to fill the cavity caused by the shrinking.
It is to be hoped that the loss of life is exaggerated in these first reports but this hope cannot be relied on. The early accounts of the earthquake at Chios more than a year ago greatly underestimated the number of casualties and there may be no inaccuracy in the large figures given for the loss at Casamicciola. There is one certainty about this disaster, there will be no heated discussions to determine who was to blame or how it might have been prevented.
Monday, July 30, 1883
A DAY OF DISASTER
The Great Earthquake Calamity in Ischia--The Terrible Loss of Life
THREE THOUSAND KILLED
The Earthquake Disaster on the Island of Ischia
A special despatch from Naples says: The town of Casamicciola, on the Island of Ischia, near Naples, was almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake last night. The neighboring towns of Forio and Lacceameno were greatly damaged.
The shcoks began at half-past nine o'clock last night. At that hour a majority of the people of the upper classes were at the theatre. nearly all of the houses in the town collapsed. It is estimated that eight hundred persons were injured.
It is impossible as yet to give the exact number of the dead at Casamicciola. In the lastest accounts the number is estimated at 3,000. The Hotel Piccola Sentinella sank in the earth and buried many of its inmates. Some of the inhabitants of the town escaped to the sea at the first shock.
They made their way to naples with the news of the calamity. The centre of the area of the shock was the same as that of two years ago, but the radius was wider. The shock was felt at sea, and according to some accounts, even at Naples.
A gentleman who was staying at the Hotel Piccola Sentinella and who escaped with his life relates that he only had time to secure some candles for use in the darkness of the ruins before the collapse of the building.
The ground opened in many places, while in other places there was no movement. water gushed out of springs. Several boilers in the bathing house burst. The theatre, which was a wooden structure, was literally town open, allowing the audience to escape.
A person who lived near the now ruined bathingestablishment says he escaped from the place amid falling walls and balconies, the terrified people shouting "To the sea>"
A number of steamers have been brought into service to carry the injured to Naples. One hundred persons, more or less severely injured, have arrived at Naples by steamers. Man of the victims belong to good families. The impression produced by the dissaster is indescribable.
At Lacco there are many dead and wounded. At Forio the churches were ruined, but no one was killed. The troops have recovered the body of Signor Fiorentini, Prefect of Lassari.
Steamers loaded with injured people are constantly arriving here from the scene of the calamity. The hospitals are already filled with sufferers.
The Minister of Public Works has gone to Casamicciola to organise measures of relief. All steamers plying between Ischia and the main land were immediately chartered by the government to bring the wounded from the island.
None of the Deputies are known to have perished, and it is hoped that all have escaped. An English chaplain lost one child. A Mr. Green and wife are among the killed at the Hotel Piccola.
Later telegrams state that all the hotels at Casamicciola are srecked. The Minister of Public Works and the Prefect of Naples, with a large force of soldiers, hurried to the scene. The soldiers will work to render the ruins secure and will engage in a search for the wounded. A number of physicians have gone to attend the injured, their aid being urgently needed.
The stories told by the survivors are horrible. many Romans having villas at Ischia are known to have been lost. The dead are fearfully mutilated. In some cases corpses are plainly discernigble through the ruins, but they cannot be extricated. It is surmised that some persons are still alive in the cellars. A correspondent telegraphs this afternoon that judging from reports already at hand, the calamity will infinitely exceed the Chios earthquake of 1881.
A correspondent says: "I have jsut returned from Ischia. Casamicciola, Lacco and Forio have been destroyed. They were three of the most flourishing communes on the island, which was half overthrown. The road between the towns of Ischia and Casamicciola is impassable." The Prefect of Naples telegraphs that the town of Casamicciola has ceased to exist.
The train from Rome to Naples to-day was crowded with passengers going to inquire as to the fate of their friends. The Bishop of Casamicciola, Dan Filipani, of Rome, and the Prefect of Cagliari are reported to be among the dead.
There were very few English visitors on the island at the time of the disaster. None of the special despatches mention American names among the killed or injured.
The Syndic of Casamicciola telegraphs as follows: "The shock came with irresistible violence and was accompanied by a deafening noise. The confusion in the theatre was fearful. Lights were overthrown and set fire to the building. A dense cloud of dust filled the air. Cries of pain and terror were heard on all sides. On hearing the shouts of "To the seal!" a general rush was made toward the shore. Every floating thing was taken by assault."
Among the dead are Professor Palma, the Baroness Diriseis, Commander Zapputi, the wives and children of Signori Cecere, Bioiliani, Ali and Martano.
It is probable that the Marchioness Pacca Laurati is also among the dead. A Miss More was saved.
The excitement in Italy may be imagined from the fact that there were 2000 visitors in Ischia, including wealthy Roman and Neapolitan families and several deputies who were taking the baths there.
Wednesday Morning, August 1, 1883
Miss Van Allen the Only American Known to Have Been Injured.
Naples, July 31--The only American known to have been injured by the earthquake on the island of Ischia on Saturday night was a Miss Van Allen and she is only slightly hurt.
The search of the ruins for bodies of victims was continued during the night. All the bodies recovered are buried immediately to prevent miasina. An eye-witness describes the scene at the theatre at Casamicciola when the earthquake occurred as an awful one. The curtain had just risen when a tremendous shock was felt. A fearful roar followed, and the ground rocked like the sea in a storm. A great cry of terror arose from the audience who were thrown into a heap and a large number of them were hurled beneath the timbers of the building which fell upon them. Two more shocks occurred. All who could rushed outside of the theatre and hundreds of persons clambered into the trees in the vicinity for safety. Most of the people, however, escaped to the shore, where bonfires were lighted as signals of distress. Hundreds of half-naked men and women wild, with terror and grief, ran to and fro among the ruins with torches during the night searching for missing friends.
Among the persons who were on the island on Saturday night and who has been missing since, was a Mr. Sommer, and English or American gentleman. He resided at the Hotel Manzi.
The burials of victims were continued throughout the day. Two hundred and eighty bodies were buried at Casamicciola, ninety at Lacco and twenty-nine at Forio. The latest estimate places the number of deaths at between 200 and 5000 bodies. As it would be impossible to recover and bury all the bodies Signor Genela, Minister of Public Works has ordered that in view of the horrible exhalations from the decomposing remains the unrecovered corpses be left where they lie and liquid lime be poured over the ruins made by the earthquake. Casamicciola will thus be converted into a vast cemetery.
Vienna, July 31--The municipality has voted in favor of donating a large sum of money toward the relief of the earthquake sufferers at Ischia.
Monza, July 31--King Humbert, who has been sojourning here, has gone to Casamicciola.