On this day, 18 August 1917, the Greek city of Thessaloniki is destroyed by a great fire that leaves more than 70,000 homeless.
The Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 as it is known, destroyed two thirds of Greece’s second-largest city and burned for 32 hours and destroyed 9,500 houses within an extent of 1 square kilometre. Half the Jewish population emigrated from the city as their livelihoods were gone. Rather than quickly rebuilding, the government commissioned the French architect Ernest Hébrard to design a new urban plan for the burned areas and for the future expansion of the city. His designs are still evident in the city, most notably Aristotelous Square, although some of his most grandiose plans were never completed due to a lack of funds.
According to the findings of the investigation by the Court of Thessaloniki, the fire began on 18 August 1917 at roughly 15:00, by accident at a small house of refugees at Olympiados 3, in the Mevlane district between the center and the Upper City when a spark from the kitchen fire fell in a pile of straw and ignited it. Due to lack of water and indifference, the initial fire was not put out. Eventually, an intense wind carried the fire to the neighboring houses, and it continued throughout central Thessaloniki.
Further back into Greece’s past again on this day in 853 A.D. a powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8 on the Richter scale destroyed buildings in Thebes, Chalkida and Atalanti killing 13 people, while a tsunami is caused in the Evian Gulf by landslides.