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The great earthquake

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Anyone who witnessed the shocking images of Japan’s tsunami in 2011 will have some idea of the disaster which befell Lisbon on November 1, 1755. A quake of around 8.7 on the Richter scale – the largest earthquake ever to hit Europe – struck at 9.30am when many people were attending Mass for All Souls’ Day. Survivors fled to the open spaces of the riverfront, many to be engulfed by a giant tsunami that followed some forty minutes later. Fires then burned for up to five days and tens of thousands of people lost their lives. The event put a halt to Portuguese colonial expansion, but also led to the development of the study of seismology.

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