The most calamitous of the landslips occurred on the sea-coast of the Straits of Messina, near the celebrated rock of Scilla, where huge masses fell from the tall cliffs, overwhelming many villas and gardens. At Gian Greco a continuous line of precipitous rocks, nearly a mile in length, tumbled down. The aged Prince of Scilla, after the first great shock on the 5th of February, persuaded many of his vassals to quit the dangerous shore, and take refuge in the fishing boats—he himself showing the example. That same night, however, while many of the people were asleep in the boats, and others on a flat plain a little above the sea-level, another powerful shock threw down from the neighboring Mount Jaci a great mass, which fell with a dreadful crash, partly into the sea, and partly upon the plain beneath. Immediately the sea rose to a height of twenty feet above the level ground on which the people were stationed, and rolling over it, swept away the whole multitude. This immense wave then retired, but returned with still greater violence, bringing with it the bodies of the men and animals it had previously swept away, dashing to pieces the whole of the boats, drowning all that were in them, and wafting the fragments far inland. The prince with 1,430 of his people perished by this disaster.
It was on the north-eastern shore of Sicily, however, that the greatest amount of damage was done. The first severe shock, on the 5th of February, overthrew nearly the whole of the beautiful city of Messina, with great loss of life. The shore for a considerable distance along the coast was rent, and the ground along the port, which was before quite level, became afterwards inclined towards the sea, the depth of the water having, at the same time, increased in several parts, through the displacement of portions of the bottom. The quay also subsided about fourteen inches below the level of the sea, and the houses near it were much rent. But it was in the city itself that the most terrible desolation was wrought—a complication of disasters having followed the shock, more especially a fierce conflagration, whose intensity was augmented by the large stores of oil kept in the place.
According to official reports made soon after the events, the destruction caused by the earthquakes of the 5th of February and 28th of March throughout the two Calabrias was immense. About 320 towns and villages were entirely reduced to ruins, and about fifty others seriously damaged. The loss of life was appalling—40,000 having perished by the earthquakes, and 20,000 more having subsequently died from privation and exposure, or from epidemic diseases bred by the stagnant pools and the decaying carcases of men and animals. The greater number were buried amid the ruins of the houses, while others perished in the fires that were kindled in most of the towns, particularly in Oppido, where the flames