Earthquake in the Apennines

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Earthquake in the Apennines: Italy shaken

A 6.0 magnitude quake struck central Italy in the early hours of 24 August. It was only the start of a series of earthquakes that produced several more severe tremors through to the month of October.

In the early hours of 24 August, the historic old town of Amatrice (population some 2,500) and other villages in the Apennine Mountains in central Italy were hit by a magnitude 6.0 earthquake. It was followed by two further tremors on 26 and 28 October, and by a large number of smaller aftershocks. The sequence peaked on 30 October with a magnitude 6.5 earthquake, the largest in Italy for 35 years. Damage was severe because of the high ground motion and the many historic buildings in the vicinity of the epicentre, which included buildings of huge art-historical significance. Several hundred people were killed in the first wave of tremors. In contrast, there were fortunately no fatalities resulting from the stronger quakes in October. Many residents had left the region by this point, and access to the worst-affected areas like Amatrice was blocked. In fact, by the time the strongest tremor struck, hardly any people were left in their homes following the previous medium-strength quake and the resulting aftershocks.

In 2009, the city of L’Aquila further south, and in 1997 the region of Umbria Marche to the north of the current epicentre, were struck by earthquakes. Scientists believe there is a seismic connection between all these quakes and are expecting further tremors in the region. There have also been severe earthquakes in recent years in other parts of the country. In 2012, the northern Italian province of Emilia Romagna was hit by two quakes that caused economic losses of US$ 16bn (€13bn).

After the Amatrice earthquake, the Italian government launched the Casa Italia (Italian House) project. It is intended to enhance earthquake protection nationwide, something that will require major efforts over the next few years. Even before this event, the Italian research centre, Consiglio Nazionale Ingegneri (CNI), calculated that it would take almost €94bn to make all of Italy’s housing stock more earthquake-resistant. But even much more stable buildings will not prevent serious damage occurring from time to time.

According to data from Munich Re’s NatCatSERVICE, earthquake damage in Italy between 1980 and 2015 amounted to roughly US$ 56bn (€51bn), of which only around US$1.8bn (€1.6bn) was insured. The insurance density remains very low, particularly for residential buildings.

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