Blog-Earthquake 1953

The Disastrous Earthquake of 1953 in Kefalonia

One of the greatest disasters to ever befall the Greek island of Kefalonia was the earthquake of 1953. An earthquake like this was bound to happen on this island eventually as this island is just east of a major tectonic fault. 

In August of 1953,  a total of four earthquakes hit the island. These earthquakes destroyed almost every house. The most intense earthquake measured 7.3 on the Richter scale. The center was on the southern tip of the island and raised by 60 cm. The watermarks on rocks around the coast bear testimony to this fact. The only areas that escaped destruction were on the northern side.

The worst blow to the economy was that most residents left the island to live elsewhere. 600 people died and the survivors who did not leave the island rebuilt everything. The new buildings were built according to strict anti-earthquake specifications.

The island did receive international help. It got the most help from the United States, Britain, Sweden, and Norway. The first ship to help the island was the British Royal Navy’s, HMS Daring. A street in the town of Argostoli is named after this ship. Argostoli was home to many Venetian buildings, which were completely destroyed by the earthquake. They were rebuilt, but are now said to look like cement bunkers.

The beauty of the originals was somehow lost in the rebuilding. The old mansions and bell towers were destroyed as well. Only two houses and a bridge survived the earthquakes of 1953. The village of Sami was also completely wrecked. The village was rebuilt with wide streets and pre-fabricated cement houses. As a result, it now looks like an English resort town. Fiscardo was one of the few settlements that remained intact. You can see quite picturesque Venetian houses that were built before 1953.

Agia Ierosalim is another village that managed to escape the effects of the earthquakes. It has the same Venetian houses as Fiscardo. However, the village of Assos was not as lucky as Fiscardo and Agia Ierosalim. It was completely destroyed and reduced to rubble. For some reason, the French were in love with this town, it could have been because of the landscape. The French used their money to completely rebuild this village. The villagers showed their gratitude to the French by putting up a plaque thanking them in French and Greek. They created a new square and called it Paris.

The Korgialenio Folk Museum used to have many photos of Argostoli and other historical documents before it was damaged by the earthquakes of 1953. The village of Kourkoumelata was completely destroyed and rebuilt by the shipowner named Giorgios Vergotis. The mill wheels that are near Argostoli were also ruined.

The worst earthquake was also felt on the Greek islands of Zakynthos, Ithaca, and Lefkada. These earthquakes are described in the book called Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. The Drapano Cemetery was not affected by the earthquakes of 1953. The Monastery of Agios Andreas, however, was not spared, as it suffered untold damage. It was renovated and turned into a museum that holds icons and frescoes from abandoned Kefalonian churches.

The former Byzantine convent of Agios Andreas was nearly destroyed by the earthquakes, which took the plaster off the walls and revealed 16th-century frescoes. Another good thing about these earthquakes was the discovery of the underground lake of Melissani.

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