October 2016 – ITALY– A powerful 6.6-magnitude earthquake rocked central Italy on Sunday morning, injuring at least 20 people, in the strongest tremor to hit the country in more than three decades. The earthquake follows tremors last week and comes on the heels of a devastating quake in August, which killed nearly 300 people and flattened entire villages.
Residents ran onto the streets in a panic as the quake struck at 7:40 a.m. local time (2:40 a.m. ET) Sunday, and rescuers were seen soon after, helping evacuate a group of nuns from a church. They worked through aftershocks that hit every 20 minutes or so. Authorities are hopeful there may be no deaths since many residents in the region had already been evacuated to emergency camps and hotel rooms paid for by the government after the August quake and last week’s temblors, and schools had shut down in anticipation of powerful aftershocks.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Rome thanked rescuers and vowed to rebuild damaged villages. “Italy has many faults, but these situations bring out the best of us,” he said, adding the country would rebuild houses, churches and shops. “We will rebuild everything. We have the resources to do it.” The main road into the worst-affected area has been blocked at various points, said Curcio, the civil protection chief, and helicopters were airlifting the injured to the hospital in Foligno, around 30 kilometers to the northwest. Six aircraft were monitoring the affected regions, he added. Initial images from Sunday’s quake show devastation to some historical buildings. Many of these buildings had not been reinforced since two powerful quakes struck Wednesday.
The town center of Amatrice took another battering Sunday after most of its buildings were seriously damaged in the August quake — a lone bell tower was seen poking up among the rubble. The much-visited Basilica of San Benedetto in Norcia was leveled at its core, only its facade still somewhat intact. Central Italy is a deeply Catholic region. Many people have grown weary of the recent bout of quakes and have permanently abandoned the area. Many others, however, are refusing to leave, some sleeping in their cars that they believe offer better protection than the roofs over their heads.
The quake was felt as far north as the Alps, Curcio said, and as far south as Rome, some 90 kilometers (56 miles) away. The metro in Rome has been shut down as authorities continue to survey the area, municipal officials said. Schools in Rome will be closed Monday so buildings can be surveyed for any structural damage, according to the Rome municipality website. Several buildings have suffered minor damage from the series of earthquakes. Morgan Kasmarik, an Australian journalist on vacation in the Italian capital with a friend, said “the whole city shook” when the quake struck. “I was in bed, enjoying a Sunday lie-in, when I felt the room start to shake. Within seconds, the ground started to roll, like I was on a boat in choppy water,” she said.
“We were both quite shaken as it was the first time either of us had ever experienced an earthquake. I’m pretty keen not to repeat the experience. (But) it didn’t stop us, or the many other tourists from spilling into the streets to enjoy the beautiful day.” In central Italy, the people are accustomed to seismic events in their region, but not so many in such a short space of time. CNN International meteorologist Derek Van Dam that Sunday’s quake was Italy’s strongest in 36 years and that Wednesday’s temblors were “considered fore-shocks” ahead of Sunday’s “main earthquake.” –CNN