29 January 2012

LIFE: I Feel the Earth Shake Under My Feet

SARONNO, Italy - I didn’t need the National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology to tell me we had another earthquake on Friday. The second this week. The Friday quake, which registered 5.6 on the Richter Scale, wasn’t as strong as the one on Wednesday, but scary nonetheless.  The building I live in is well built, secure and strong, it’s like a fortress, so to feel the bearing walls shimmer and shake like an exotic dancer was a bit unnerving.
Church in Santa Lucia, Tuscany
After the initial shake there were two more, one that registered 2.7 and another that registered 3.2. Fortunately there was little damage. The epicenter of the quake was in Parma, and so the first thing the authorities did was to stop all trains between Milan and Bologna. Then the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia checked all the train tracks, bridges and viaducts for any sign of damage. Everything checked out, but just to be on the safe side they reduced the speed of the trains traveling throughout the Province of Emilia Romagna. Dams and the local phone lines were also checked. 

Damage was minimal throughout the quake zone, and no lives were lost. In Santa Lucia, a borgo of Massa Carrara in Tuscany, a part of a church roof fell in causing damage to the interior. And in the town of Colorno, near Parma, statues fell from the facades of several buildings, and balustrades on exterior balconies that had been damaged by the quake on Wednesday, were damaged even further. Engineers and Civil Protection units from Colorno checked to see if there were deep cracks in any of the town’s buildings that would render them unsafe, but everything checked out ok. 
 Church of Santa Lucia
While the quake was most strongly felt in Tuscany, primarily in Massa, Pisa, Lucca, Livorno, Pistoia, Prato, Firenze and Arezzo.  Cinzia, a friend of mine from Savona, on the Italian Riviera, wrote on my facebook page that she had felt the shake where she lives too, and she lives in a real fortress on top of a very high hill. While there were no reports of evacuations in Savona or Genoa, schools and public buildings throughout Emilia Romagna were evacuated as were schools, the Stock Exchange, the Town Hall and La Scala Opera House in Milan.

In Saturday’s Corriere della Sera, Salvatore Barba, seismologist at the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology commented on the magnitude of Friday’s 5.4 quake saying, "at 60 kilometers, (37 miles), Friday’s quake was particularly deep, much deeper than the 25-30 km (15-18 miles) which is the average depth of quakes in this area, and this certainly cushioned the effect.  In Aquila, the devastating earthquake of 2009, was only 7 km (4.5 miles) deep and resulted in wide scale destruction.” 
Milan's Stock Exchange
Personally, the news that the interior of the earth is shifting around miles and miles under my feet isn’t quite as comforting as Mr. Barba seemed to think it was. But he’s the expert.

While the earthquake scared the beejeebers out of a lot of people, including yours truly, there was only minor damage and no one was hurt. The Costa Concordia barely quivered but the quivering was minimal and given the tons of fuel on board, that is a very good thing.
Everybody Out -  Near La Scala Opera House
Unfortunately the problem is that authorities claim we are in the grip of a seismic swarm in the Apennine Mountain of Emilia Romagna, and that more earthquakes, much stronger than those already felt, will most likely occur. This may be the time to make one small pile of the things I don’t really want to live without, not that I think we are in any danger. It’s just a “just in case”.
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  1. Do earthquakes like this happen often?

    1. No, not often. I've been in Saronno/Milano for about 18 years and this is the first one that I know of. They are much more common in the center of Italy. Strange how something so gentle can do so much damage. Really scary.