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Earthquakes Rock Central Italy

Dozens of people are dead, while buildings shook as far south as Rome.

By Max Ufberg

Editor’s Note — August 24, 2016: As of Wednesday morning, the death toll being reported by Italian media has climbed to 73. With many people still unaccounted for, that number is expected to rise in the coming days.


Residents and rescuers help a man among the rubble after a strong earthquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016 . (Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images)

Earthquakes struck Central Italy on Wednesday morning, killing dozens of people and trapping others under debris, the New York Times has reported.

The first, a 6.2-magnitude quake, struck near the town of Accumoli around 3:30 a.m. local time. It was the strongest of the day.

“Half the town no longer exists,” said Amatrice Mayor Sergio Pirozzi, per the Times.

Writing for the Guardian, Paul Farrell reports on the United States Geological Survey’s own assessment: that the earthquake resulted from a “normal fault,” meaning one plate was pushed down over another:

In this case, the Tyrrhenian basin — the area between Sicily and Sardeninia — is expanding, pushing Eurasia towards Africa faster than the Eurasian and African plates can compress.

At the location of the Earthquake, the Eurasian plate moves northeast at about 24mm each year. Eventually the tension builds up, and is released as the plates slide over one another.

In this case, as has been reported, the first main quake was significant, being measured at magnitude 6.2.

In the coming months, after the rubble has been cleared and the bodies have been mourned, Central Italy will have to consider how it is to make itself whole again; that is, how the cities affected by this tragedy are to re-build. Writing for Pacific Standard last year, Wes Juddnoted the opportunity for improved infrastructure that these tragedies can afford:

In the wake of natural disasters, an abundance of homes, buildings, communities, and cities are left in ruins, a crumbled version of their former selves. Tragedy on this scale gives cities the unenviable but unique opportunity to rebuild — in some cases to start from scratch. The damage inflicted by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 allowed the city to rebuild into what many consider one of the best designed cities in the world.

La Repubblicareports that some buildings in Rome—nearly 100 miles away from the quake—shook for 20 seconds.