NEWS

Earthquake in Italy levels town, raising questions of preventability and preparedness

On Wednesday, August 26, a 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck in the early morning hours, near the village of Amatrice, located approximately 100 miles northeast of Rome. The village of 2,000 people, as well some neighboring villages, were devastated by the quake.The mayor of Amatrice stated that “half the town no longer exists.” In the three days since the quake, nearly 1,000 aftershocks have followed. While the death toll climbs, the most recent figure released counted 267 dead, including children, foreign tourists, two Afghan refugees, and numerous nuns. Approximately 2,100 people in the area are living in temporary housing, and after a state of emergency declaration, €50 million has been allocated for immediate disaster relief and recovery. Over 5,400 officials and volunteers took part in the rescue and relief process.

Amatrice Earthquake
Large portions of Amatrice were reduced to rubble by the 6.2 magnitude earthquake. (Wikimedia Commons/Leggi il Firenzepost)

In the aftermath of the destruction, questions have been raised regarding Italy’s lack of seismic preparedness. According to the United States Geological Survey, the region’s structures are a “mix of vulnerable and earthquake-resistant construction;” officials estimate that 70% of buildings in the country are not up to seismic standards. Of particular note is Italy’s history of devastating earthquakes: eight substantial earthquakes have struck the country in the past 40 years. The nearby town L’Aquila was struck in 2009, leading to 300 deaths. The 2009 earthquake was a 6.3 magnitude tremor and struck in the early hours of the morning nearly 60 miles east of Rome. In the aftermath of the 2009 damage, approximately €1 billion was allocated to upgrade buildings to seismic-standards; however experts estimate that €90 billion would be necessary to reinforce all of Italy’s historic buildings. However, one interesting counter-example lies in the village of Amatrice, where a 13th-century clock tower was unharmed by the quake,while the nearby Romolo Capranica school, restored using the 2009 funds, was destroyed.

Sources and Further Reading:

  1. After Earthquake in Italy, ‘Half the Town No Longer Exists’– New York Times
  2. Italians Comb Through Rubble After Quake – New York Times
  3. Italy Earthquake Toll Rises to Almost 300 Amid Frantic Search for Survivors – Weather Channel
  4. As earthquake death toll rises Italy questions why it was so unprepared – The Guardian
  5. Italy declares state of emergency in region hit by earthquake – The Guardian