A powerful magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck central Italy on Wednesday at 3:36am local time. It collapsed several buildings as several people remain trapped. The current death toll is at least 73 people but that is expected to rise as the most affected region were the string of towns and villages across a mountainous section of Italy.
People struggled to free victims from collapsed homes in the town of Amatrice which was hardest hit. The mayor says that half of the town “isn’t here any more”. As many as 60 aftershocks have continued through the morning. Some as big as magnitude 5.5.
“The situation is dramatic, there are many dead. Rescue efforts are under way and it is very, very difficult… half the village has disappeared” said Sergio Pirozzi, mayor of Amatrice.
The Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, said that the priority over the next days is to rescue as many survivors as possible. “No family, not city, no hamlet will be left alone” he said.
This is the most powerful earthquake to strike Italy since 2009 when more than 300 people were killed near the same region when a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck. Dr. Mark Quigley, a geomorphology professor at the University of Melbourne said that “This earthquake is no surprise as this is one of the most seismically active parts of Italy”. He mentioned that six major earthquakes had struck the region in the past seven centuries which include an earthquake that hit in 1908 that caused a tsunami and killed 80,000 people in the southern regions of Reggio Calabria and Sicily.
After the 2009 earthquake there was controversy over the lax building controls which caused several buildings to collapse and the lack of warning to residents that a potential earthquake was coming to educate residents to get prepared. With Wednesday’s earthquake destroying half the town of Amatrice, seems like they need to revisit the building codes again. They should also seriously think about having more educational programs to help notify the public of earthquake safety and preparedness.
With access to roads being blocked and vital buildings like hospitals damaged and people trapped under rubble, the death toll is expected to rise.
Several tourists are also trapped under the rubble so I can’t stress enough the importance of earthquake preparedness. No matter where you live, you never know when you’ll be traveling to an earthquake prone area so it’s always important to at least know what to do in the event of an earthquake. Please take the time to review if you don’t know already and share this information with your friends and family. The more we can spread awareness the more people can be safe.