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Earthquake strikes central Italy

At least 207 people are confirmed dead as the Abruzzo region is hit by a massive earthquake measuring 6.3

An earthquake of magnitude 6.3 hit central Italy, killing at least 207 people, injuring 1,500 and damaging thousands of buildings. The earthquake struck at 3.32am on Monday morning in the mountainous region of Abruzzo, some 97km north east of Rome.

The area has many historic buildings which were not built to withstand an earthquake. “From what I could tell, the majority were unreinforced masonry buildings which you would expect to collapse,” said Arup head of earthquake engineering Ziggy Lubkowski. “There are lots of historical towns in the area and there’s not been an earthquake in the area for a long time. There were a few examples of reinforced concrete buildings collapsing, which is more unexpected but it depends on the age of the building.”

The regional capital of Abruzzo, the medieval town of L’Aquila, was badly hit. A university dormitory, churches and the government offices are among the buildings that collapsed. Some modern buildings on the outskirts of the town are also reported to have suffered. “Among the big issues is the stock of historic buildings particularly in the villages,” said professor of earthquake engineering at Bristol University, Colin Taylor.

“There are rubble stone masonry buildings that have been there for hundreds of years. They are very brittle and may have suffered badly. However recent buildings should stand well. The Italians have a seismic code, and are at the fore of Eurocode 8 (for earthquake engineering). They are implementing Eurocodes at the moment and have very competent earthquake engineers. “They have had seismic codes since the 1960s but it really began to mature from the 80s onwards, hence some of the buildings built in the 60s, 70s and early 80s may also have suffered”

The Italians have a seismic code, and are at the fore of Eurocode 8

Colin Taylor

 

Many villages in the surrounding area are still cut off by landslides; phone and power lines remain down, and some bridges and roads as well as schools and offices have been closed. Four helicopters are being used by the local fire service to reach remote areas. The quake was felt as far away as Rome. “I’ve been in touch with our office in Rome,” said Lubkowski. “They were shaken and woken up by the event.”

According to the US Geological Survey, the earthquake occurred as a result of normal faulting on a North West – South East oriented structure in the central Apennines, the mountain belt that runs from the Gulf of Taranto in the south to the southern edge of the Po basin in northern Italy.

The central Apennine region has experienced several significant earthquakes in recorded history. In 1997, a 6.0 earthquake 85 km north-northwest of this week’s event killed 11, injured more than 100 and destroyed approximately 80,000 homes in the Marche and Umbrian regions.   

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