After researching for many years I now give here an accurate (as far as possible) account of the incident which literally “shook” Corfu .
It was the middle of the night on the 11th November 1718 when a most terrible storm commenced.
Torrential rain followed by lightning, thunder and thunderbolts terrified everyone and awoke all who were asleep.
Suddenly a thunderbolt hit the new powder-magazine in the Old Fortress. The flames and the burning pieces of wood transmitted the fire which swept across the entire area of the Fortress.
The three powder-magazines inside the Fortress caught fire!
The immense explosion was so great that it was heard in the opposite shores of Epirus!
Those who were approaching Corfu by boat, turned back, away from this infernal river.
Buildings were demolished and the entire earth was trembling!
The walls in the area were torn apart and the high buildings were collapsing everywhere, killing all who happened to be in the vicinity.
The high walls of the Old Fortress rapidly became a heap of ruins. The Palace was completely blown up and also the barracks, stores and lodgings.
Under the ruins were the corpses of the unfortunate men, women, children and animals which were burnt to death.
Some in the throes of death or dead were found in ditches and trenches, while others who were thrown into the sea were drowning by the waves.
The brave General Pisani and sixty of his men perished and were buried under the ruins of the Palace.
Pisani’s Theologian, Frangipani was found dead in a trench a long way from the area.
The doctor Mario Battista, his secretary Rougini, the Government Minister Von, all with wives and children also perished.
Others who died were the Garrison Commander Zorzis, Major Iskovich, four companies belonging to the Grimaldi battalion and a further seven companies belonging to the Nikolaos Vouratihos battalion, foty-eight oarsmen and two sea Captains, F. Pezaro and Diedo.
The greatest damage was suffered by the nearby area “MANDRACHIO”- The area where today the church of “MANDRAKINA” is situated, next to the Palace of St. Michael and St. George.
So great was the explosion that the nearby sea developed such waves that sank four galleys.
The estimated loss of lives was about 2,000 people and the financial public and private loss was immense.
The town of Corfu was in mourning for a long time. They buried the dead and offered every assistance to the wounded.
The Syndicate of the Community issued orders to supply food and lodgings to the survivors. All responded and helped.
The Senate immediately granted pensions and grants to the families of all who died in this disaster.
By Aleko Damaskinos