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Today marks 357 years since Croatia’s largest ever recorded earthquake

Dubrovnik in 1667 earthquake

Dubrovnik in 1667 (Photo: Georg Kowalczyk; Fotografie, Scan and postprocessing by Hubertl/Public Domain/CC license)

On this day, 357 years ago, the strongest earthquake in the territory of modern-day Croatia occurred. 

The 1667 Dubrovnik earthquake was one of the most devastating earthquakes to hit what is now modern Croatia in the last 2,400 years, since records began. 

On Holy Wednesday before Easter, April 6, 1667, at about 8:45 a.m., Dubrovnik and its surroundings were hit by a devastating earthquake which lasted between 8 and 15 seconds. 

The quake, which had a set of 37 macro seismic intensities according to the EMS98, was felt from the Gulf of Genoa, on the east and west coasts of the Adriatic (in Venice), Albania and all the way to Smyrna and Constantinople.

The entire city was almost destroyed and although the exact number is unknown, it is estimated around 2,200 people were killed and wounded. 

Among the dead was the City’s Rector Simone Ghetaldi and his family. 

The defensive walls and fortresses of the City were spared from severe damage. Immediately after the earthquake, a tsunami occurred, which was written about by the Dutch consul Jakob van Damm, who survived the earthquake in Dubrovnik on his way to Smyrna.

The earthquake also caused fires to start with strong winds spreading them in the destroyed houses. 

Dubrovnik in 1667 earthquake

(Photo: Georg Kowalczyk; Fotografie, Scan and postprocessing by Hubertl/Public Domain/CC license)

After the earthquake and fires, which were extinguished on April 8, Dubrovnik was also looted. Unfortunately, it is not known exactly how many inhabitants were in Dubrovnik before the earthquake (it is estimated that there were about 6,000 of them), as well as the exact appearance of the city before the earthquake, professors Davorka and Marijan Herak wrote. 

The earthquake also caused a lot of damage in the vicinity of Dubrovnik. It was felt with an intensity of VIII degrees of the EMS scale south of Dubrovnik, all the way to Budva (about 70 km away from the epicentre), and north to about forty km away in Ston.

There are numerous documents about the catastrophic event. The majority of letters and manuscripts described scenes from the City and its surroundings that concerned scenes of misery that arose among the population after the earthquake, and the damage to individual buildings. The earthquake turned the city into a pile of ruins, and stones rolled from Srđa hill. 

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The main cause of seismic activity on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea lies in the underlining of the Adriatic microplate under the Outer Dinarides. Their number and strength are growing from northwest to southeast, so that the largest number of earthquakes as well as the strongest earthquakes occur in the area from Ston and Dubrovnik to Albania, the the Department of Geophysics, Faculty of Science in Zagreb said.

The seismic hazard of Dubrovnik, as well as the whole of Croatia, can be found on the Maps of seismic areas of the Republic of Croatia, freely available on the website. 

You can watch an animation of the 1667 earthquake below from Dubrovnik Museums.

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