Mr. Richmond to Mr. Frelinghuysen.
Rome, August 3, 1883. (Received August 18.)
Sir: I have the honor to report that the news of the terrible earthquake on the island of Ischia, on the evening of the 28th ultimo, which destroyed the town of Casamicciola and devastated a large part of the towns of Lacco Ameno and Forio, was received in Rome on the day after; but as every following dispatch estimated the loss of human life as greater than the preceding, I have deferred writing upon the subject until something apparently definite could be reported.
Of the three towns visited by this earthquake, Casamicciola had a population by the last census of 4,217, and had on the 28th of July an estimated number of strangers, visitors to the baths, of about 1,500. Of this total of something under 6,500, nearly, if not quite, 3,000 persons are believed to have lost their lives. At Lacco Ameno, of a population of 2,000, about one-half have perished. At Forio d’Italia, out of something less than 7,000 inhabitants, about 1,000 are estimated to have met their deaths. Thus, of a total of a little under 15,000 of residents and strangers, some 5,000 human beings have fallen victims to this great calamity. In addition to this are the large numbers of wounded, who fill the hospitals of Naples and the temporary structures that have been erected upon the island.
The earthquake shock struck Oasamicciola with crushing force. The place has literally ceased to exist, but three or four houses remaining of what was the most attractive watering place in Italy. In fifteen seconds it was reduced to a shapeless mass of rubbish, with the greater part of its inhabitants lifeless, or lying wounded and helpless amid the ruins of their homes. At Lacco Ameno the loss of life was equally great in proportion, although the material injury to the town did not extend to its entire destruction, as at Casamicciola. At Forio d’talia, frightful as were the number of deaths, the percentage to the population was smaller, and the injury to the town proportionately less than at the two other places.
The island of Ischia is about five miles long by four in width. Its population was about 26,000, of which the greater part was gathered in six different towns, the three which have been the victims of this earthquake holding rather more than half the entire number. Casamicciola, which was situated near the base of the extinct volcano, Mount Epomeo, [Page 599]has been celebrated for ages for its baths of various kinds, hot, vapor, mineral, sand, &c., and has been the resort of visitors from immemorial time. About two years ago it suffered from an earthquake, which occasioned the loss of about 125 lives, and it is understood that this last awful visitation was preceded by premonitory rumblings in the earth, of which, however, no thought was taken. Lacco Ameno, like Casamie-ciola, noted for its baths, is situated on the northern extremity of the island, and is a place of great resort. Forio d’Italia, on the western coast, is the shipping point of Ischia.
The shock took place at about 9.45 p.m., on Saturday, the 28th of July, and the telegraph office being destroyed, the tidings were taken to Naples, about twenty miles distant by a steamer, and in the morning help began to arrive, the survivors in the stricken cities passing the night in terror and in darkness. As soon as the news was made known every effort of the Government and of private parties was made for the relief of the sufferers; doctors, nurses, engineers, firemen, soldiers, and laborers, with supplies of all kinds were sent. The King of Italy at once went to Ischia, urging on the operations, which were under the personal direction of Signor Genela, the minister of public works; and by prompt and energetic action the wounded were properly cared for. Numbers were taken out alive as the work went on, in some instances from ruins where they had lain imprisoned for many hours. The transportation to and from Naples was cared for by the steamship companies, which had placed their steamers at the disposition of the authorities.
The excavations have already been interrupted on two occasions by slight tremblings of the earth, and again this day by another, more formidable in its character, and which was accompanied by some disturbance on Mount Epomeo before referred to, which has been quiet for nearly 600 years.
At this national calamity, which exceeds in its fatal consequences to human life that which buried the cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii, the whole heart of Italy is stirred, and sympathy, with material aid, is tendered from every quarter.
I have, &c.,