Earthquakes of 1953

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A series of earthquakes hit the Ionian Islands beginning on August 8, 1953. All told, 113 earthquakes were recorded in the region. The most powerful earthquake struck the region on August 12, 1953. It hit at the southern tip of the island of Kefalonia. This earthquake measured 7.3 on the Richter scale and caused widespread damage across the island of Kefalonia and the island of Zante. 600 people died due to the earthquake. Nearly every single home was destroyed. The northern part of Kefalonia Island managed to escape some of the damage. The series of earthquakes has ended up being one of the worst natural disasters to affect the Ionian Islands. This earthquake struck around midday and caused massive destruction. In the town of Zakynthos on Zante, only two buildings survived the earthquake and the rest of the town had to be rebuilt.

Many other countries came to the aid of the inhabitants of the Ionian Islands. The first country to respond to distress calls was a ship belonging to the British Royal Navy. In the end, the United States, Great Britain, Sweden, France and Norway all helped out these Greek Islands.

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The economic impact of the earthquake was much more severe than the earthquake in itself. It is stated that the Ionian Islands never completely recovered after the earthquake because so many people fled the islands after the earthquake and never returned. Of the 125,000 residents on Kefalonia, all but 25,000 left the island. This left a limited number of people to help repair the physical destruction of the island or to help restore the faltered economy. When these 25,000 people rebuilt the islands, they rebuilt homes and buildings with a new strict building code that met earthquake specifications in hopes that they could avoid such destruction if a similar earthquake hit again.

Much of the architecture novelty and pride that existed with buildings on Kefalonia was lost. The town of Argostoli had buildings that had been built by the Venetians and these were all destroyed by the earthquake. Many of the gorgeous mansions and bell-towers were also destroyed. Essentially the island of Kefalonia lost much of its beauty when the earthquake hit. When the residents rebuilt the island, they were unable to recreate the glory that was Kefalonia. Much of the island was rebuilt with pre-fabricated cement buildings, eliminating any of the Greek architecture that had previously existed. One town that was rebuilt to its former glory was Assos. The town was a popular destination with the French, who sent large sums of money to help rebuild the town. Through this economy aid, Assos was able to be rebuilt to essentially the same town that it was prior to the earthquake. One of the main squares in the town is now called Paris to show the residents appreciation for the aid from the French.

In addition to homes and buildings, some irreplaceable religious relics were destroyed by the earthquake. The monetary of St. Andreas on Zante experienced immense damage. It was renovated and turned into a museum to house frescoes. The Byzantine Convent of Agios Andreas also suffered large amounts of damage from the earthquake but because of the earthquake some previously hidden landmarks and artworks were discovered. When the plaster fell from the walls, previously hidden 16th century frescoes were unearthed. Additionally, the earthquake led to the underground discovery of a lake in Melissani which is now a tourist destination.

Earthquakes still continue to shake the Ionian Islands, with notable earthquakes in 2002, 2004 and 2006. 

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