Tragedy in Italy: L’Aquila Earthquake

Italian Earthquake, April 2009

Unfortunately, events in Italy are reminding us all of the extremely unsafe locations associated with seismically active zones of the Earth. Even in highly developed societies with relatively low levels of vulnerability, tragedy is often associated with high magnitude events as witnessed in today’s news reports from central Italy:

‘The earthquake’s epicenter was about 70 miles (110 kilometers) northeast of Rome near the medieval city of L’Aquila. It struck at 3:32 a.m. local time (0132 GMT, EDT Sunday) in a quake-prone region that has had at least nine smaller jolts since the beginning of April. The U.S. Geological Survey said Monday’s quake was magnitude 6.3, but Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics put it at 5.8.’ Yahoo

An Irish engineer, Robert Mallet, was one of the first to systematically map the positions of Italian and Mediterranean earthquake epicentres in 1857. He effectively, long before Plate Tectonic theory emerged to explain the highly concentrated distribution, produced a map of crustal plate boundaries in the region. Tragically, they remain some of the most active in the world today (see USGS Recent Seismicity map).

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