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Title: Earthquake and people : the Maltese experience of the 1908 Messina earthquake
Authors: Borg, Ruben Paul
D'Amico, Sebastiano
Galea, Pauline
Keywords: Earthquakes -- Italy -- Messina
Earthquake zones -- Mediterranean Region
Earthquakes -- Malta -- History
Earthquake damage
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Springer International Publishing
Citation: Borg, R. P., D’Amico, S., & Galea, P. (2015). Earthquake and people : the Maltese experience of the 1908 Messina earthquake - Earthquakes and Their Impact on Society. Cham: Springer International Publishing. 533-561.
Abstract: On December 28, 1908 at 5:20 a.m. local time, a devastating earthquake (Mw = 7.2) struck Southern Italy along the Messina Strait (Fig. 1). This event caused severe ground shaking throughout the region and triggered a local tsunami. As result the cities of Messina along Sicily’s coast and Reggio di Calabria were completely destroyed (Baratta, 1910) causing more than 120,000 fatalities and with many left without shelter. The effects of the earthquake were felt within a 300-kilometer radius. Rescuers searched through the rubble for weeks, and people were still being pulled out alive days later, but thousands remained buried there. The 1908 earthquake had a significant impact on buildings and people and local communities which were displaced. The Maltese experience of the Messina 1908 earthquake relied on communication which reached Malta after the event. The assessment of the Maltese experience of the Messina Earthquake has so far been carried out with reference to published newspaper reports and other brief accounts including Herbert Ganado’s Rajt Malta Tinbidel. Alfons Maria Galea a Maltese author and filanthropist published a book in Maltese on the earthquake and its devastating effects in the popular educational series il-Kotba tal-Mogħdija taż-Żmien just a few weeks after the event. The book is a vivid account of the destruction caused by the earthquake, the suffering of the survivors and the reaction of the population in reviving the city. The document presents first-hand accounts of the events in sufficient detail to give a clear picture of the severity of the event, extents of the damage and impact on the population. It is mostly based on accounts received by Galea from persons in institutions including religious orders in Sicily who he knew. Newspaper reports in Malta and other countries together with Galea’s book present clear first-hand accounts of this event and provide information on the building deficiencies and damage, limitations of communication infrastructure during that period, limits to timely emergency response to support the population and emergency action at the beginning of the 20th century.
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