The death toll reached 455 dead, 2,412 wounded and 21 missing, with much of the island’s population abandoned by earthquakes. They are considered the most devastating earthquakes in the history of modern Greece.
Enceladus had warned residents three days earlier and more specifically on Sunday, August 9, when the first vibrations were felt.
On Tuesday, August 11, 1953, it shook the island, a powerful earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale, causing extensive damage and injuring many residents.
The chronicle of the great disaster
According to the telegrams of the technical services of the Prefecture at that time, 75% of the houses became dangerously ruined while almost all the houses could not be inhabited because of the damage they had suffered.
Part of the Red Rock collapsed from this earthquake and closed Kryoneri Road.There were no dead, but only nine wounded.
On Wednesday, August 12 at 11.30 am, there was a major earthquake, which gave the finishing blow to the houses damaged by the previous earthquakes and caused one of the biggest disasters in the history of modern Greece.
Sequential vibrations followed and one of them caused the statue of Solomon to fall in the central square of the city.
A few hours later the charismatic blast in the already destroyed state was triggered by a 6.2-magnitude earthquake on the Richter scale, which knocked down buildings that had not yet collapsed. Among them the imposing bell tower of Agios Dionysios. No house in the city stands up except the church of Agios Dionysios, the school of Ammos, the National Bank and the Sarakini house on the current El.Venizelos.
The island’s communication with the outside world was then interrupted and the island’s harbor was forced to leave for Killini hurriedly and from there to give the state authorities first information on the extent of the disaster.
Help from the sea
Downtown the fire slowly burned down everything. The wounded were transported to the squares and plates. Znynthos arrived in Zakynthos in the evening. “Lemnos” with supplies and material. The boat was occupied by MP Gigis Voultsos and the Mayor, Nikos Filiotis. Late in the evening, National Defense Minister Pan arrived.Kanellopoulos with the torpedo of BN that was heading to Kefalonia and thanks to the presence of its Zakynthian governor, Sp. Petropoulos, he approached Zakynthos.
The late politician left at the island’s authorities all the supplies the ship had at a cost of $ 100,000 for the first expenses and, after touring the burning state, informed the government and departed the next morning. Meanwhile the fire had burned most of the city.
The first substantive aid would arrive on the morning of Thursday, August 13, 1953, with the ships “Kostakis Toyas” and “Gullar”, and included medical and surgical supplies along with doctors and nurses. Along with them are Athenian envoys Eleni Vlachou, Lambros Koromilas and Alekos Sakellarios. The other member of the island Dion was also aboard. Carrier. At 9am the British Gambia cruiser arrived. The firefighters got off the ship with the necessary means and began the task of extinguishing.
Later in the day, Zakynthos, the leader of the Mediterranean British forces in the Mediterranean, Lord Maudmaden, arrived in Zakynthos, who described the situation in Zakynthos as worse than Hiroshima after the bombing.
Profession Al. Papagou – Call for help
In Athens, Prime Minister Alexander Papagos summoned the co-ordinating cabinet and briefed the earthquake-stricken group after a briefing by the relevant ministers.At the same time, a large charity committee was set up by the Archdiocese of Athens and the Prime Minister appealed to the Greek people for help.
On Friday, August 14th, the “Alfiosios” armored conductor arrived in Zakynthos with tents, supplies and medicines. A squadron of Engineers took over the demolition of the burning houses. Another ship, the “Andros”, sailed to the island and received injuries. The ship was also occupied by the then Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities Manolis Hadjidakis, who tried to save as much as he could from the ruins of the churches.
New Zealand soldiers undertook the difficult task of collecting the dead. They made their way along the river of Agios Charalambi to the central cemetery. At the entrance to the cemetery they created the first mass grave.
The same morning a meeting was held at the Gambia cruiser chaired by British Admiral Maunbaden and local authorities. It was decided at the meeting to set up a committee to co-ordinate and distribute foreign aid. The goal of Greek and foreign forces is to limit fire, find survivors and avoid epidemics.
The international community is mobilizing
The tragedy of the islands has moved the international community. The commander of the 6th US fleet, Admiral Cassidy, settled in Patras, supplying food and medicine to the three disaster-stricken islands. The administrative mechanism was gradually being organized. Tents were spread everywhere. At noon the king Paul with his wife Frederick and his successor Constantine arrived in Zakynthos. In the afternoon, the historic church of Faneromeni burned with all the treasures hidden in the ruins.
A crew of Greek, British and US troops tried to extinguish the fires and find any survivors under the rubble.
Three more ships arrived and the US Rockbridge filled with drugs, food and other supplies. In the afternoon he entered the port and the British Bermuda Cruiser in place of the Gambia Cruiser. He transported first aid supplies and a helicopter.
The following days they found Zakynthos trying to “stand on its own feet” after successive strikes by Enceladus. On Tuesday, August 18, five earthquake resettlement and rescue centers were set up at Bohalis Cross, Kipoi, Agios Lazaros, Kryoneri and Solomou Square, and the next day, the ships “Itha and Itea” arrived at the port. »With supplies.
At the same time in Paris, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) radio broadcast conveyed the emotion of the earthquake losses and the satisfaction of its member states’ support for the government and people of Greece. The government’s coordinating council in Athens has decided to set up an earthquake rehabilitation ministry.
In the following days, Prime Minister Alexander Papagos arrived in Zakynthos with his “Leo” destroyer and toured the camps, towns and villages. The prohibition on moving the population was withdrawn, while on Monday, August 24, the wounded Zakynthos celebrated her saint. The septic relic roamed the established liturgy through the ruins of the city.
Finally, foreign aid began to arrive in timber, building materials and sewers. Very important for the restoration of earthquakes were the results of church fundraisers.Foreign governments have sent financial aid and a large number of dilapidated houses. Life slowly began to come back and the inhabitants of the wounded island were re-energized and everything started from the beginning.