Italy earthquake 2016
Photo by Vigili del Fuoco, Italy's institutional agency for fire and rescue service.
A 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck central Italy at 03.36 (local time) on 24 August 2016 at a shallow depth of approximately 6km.
The death toll reached 295 with 400 injured in the towns and villages of the Central Apennines mountain range, situated less than 100 miles north-east of the capital Rome where the quake was also felt.
Towns and villages in the Umbria, Lazio and Marche regions suffered the most damage. They include Amatrice, Accumoli, Reuters, Posta and Pescara del Tronto.
Another 4.8 magnitude earthquake followed at 06.28 (local time) on 26 August causing more damage to crumbled buildings and hampering rescue efforts further.
This was one of over 500 aftershocks recorded by officials since the initial quake, which has left more than 4000 people homeless and living in temporary wooden homes.
In Amatrice over half the buildings were destroyed including almost the entire historic town, despite many buildings being reinforced since they were built in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.
The village of Pescara del Tronto was levelled to the ground.
According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), the earthquake was caused by shallow normal faulting in the Central Apennines, where the Eurasia plate moves towards the northeast with respect to Africa (at an average rate of 24mm a year). Normal faulting occurs when plates are torn apart and a sudden release in tension causes one of the plates to drop.
Tectonic activity in Italy is very complex. It includes continental collision between the African and Eurasian tectonic plates in the north, the opening up of the Tyrrhenian Basin in the west, and subduction of the Adria micro-plate beneath the Apennines from east to west all occurring simultaneously.
As the quake hit during the popular summer holiday season, the population of the region was much higher than at other times of the year and the death toll includes tourists.
The Italian press has criticised the government over building regulations, since historic towns do not have to conform to anti-quake building regulations, and some of the buildings that collapsed had been recently renovated.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said that it was "absurd" to think that Italy could build completely quake-proof buildings, and pledged €50m (£42m) in funds for rebuilding.
The last major earthquake in the region was in 2009 and killed 309 people in the nearby city of L'Aquila, further questioning Italy's ability to prepare for seismic events. The most deadly earthquake was believed to have struck in 1908 and was followed by a tsunami, which killed an estimated 80,000 people in the south of the country.
- Where exactly did the earthquake occur and what caused it?
- Why has the Italian government faced criticism? In your answer consider the statement ‘earthquakes don’t kill people, buildings do’.
- Suggest why is the time of day (and time of year) an earthquake strikes important? What was significant about the time this earthquake struck?
- When was the last major earthquake in the region and what tectonic processes caused it?
- Italy is considered a wealthy country. Suggest the impact this would have in the aftermath of a disaster such as this and in the medium to long-term future of the area. If the same event occured in a less developed country how would the short to long-term impacts be different?
- Explore the issues around earthquake forecasting. Conduct wider research and refer to the case where seismologists were sent to prison following their wrong predictions shortly before the 2009 earthquake in Italy.
Sources and links
Last updated - September
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