Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/138

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By Professor WM. H. HOBBS


NOW that more reliable accounts have reached us of the terrible disaster to Calabria and Sicily, it is possible to discuss some larger facts which seem to be revealed with clearness. The grand eruption of Etna, the disappearance of the Eolian islands, and other equally improbable rumors, have ceased to be valuable scareheads in the newspapers. The death loss it is still too early to properly estimate, but on the basis of a well determined law of news reporting, it is safe to say that the larger of the estimates will be much reduced. Many that have been reported killed will eventually be classified among the maimed and wounded, and many communes now supposed to be in as great plight as their near neighbors, will be found either to have received but slight damage or even to have remained immune. Such has, at least, been the history of the earlier Calabrian earthquakes.

A number of large towns at first reported destroyed as a result of the Calabrian earthquake of September 8, 1905, the writer found on visiting them a few weeks later had escaped without injury of any kind. The reported death roll fell from many thousand to 3,000, then to 1,500, and finally to 529, the last figure, that of the official count by communes.

Yet, notwithstanding this history there seems no reason to doubt that the death loss from the recent shocks will mount far into the tens of thousands. The greatest of previous disasters from this cause within the same region occurred in February and March, 1783, at which time the death roll was 29,515 (as finally counted by villages) and the property loss $26,000,000. This was, however, one of the greatest earthquake disasters of history, for recent extended studies by Woehle have shown that Lyell's estimate of 60,000 for the deaths caused by the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 should be divided in half. In this instance the estimates of deaths which were made at the time ranged all the way from 25,000 to 150,000.

One can not read of the rush of Italy's king and queen to the succor of their pitiably afflicted subjects, and of their remaining among them with considerable danger to themselves, without realizing that there is much of the heroic in it. The traditions of an almost parental relationship to their subjects, have thus been well maintained through