Extremely dangerous M6.2 earthquake hits central Italy, causing massive damage and more than 290 deaths


A severe earthquake registered by the EMSC as M6.2 hit central Italy at 01:36 UTC on August 24, 2016. The agency is reporting a depth of 4 km (2.48 miles). USGS is reporting M6.2 at a depth of 10 km (6.2 miles). The tremors lasted for about 20 – 30 seconds, eyewitnesses say. Numerous aftershocks are shaking the region. More than 290 people have been killed.

According to the EMSC, the epicenter was located 14 km (8.6 miles) E of Maltignano (population 2 514), 43 km (26.7 miles) N of L’Aquila (population 68 503), and 109 km (67.7 miles) NE of Roma (population 2 563 241), Italy.

Italy's civil protection agency said the earthquake was "severe" and that national emergency procedures had been activated. 

There are 2 661 034 people living within 100 km (6.2 miles). 1.1 million people are living within 75 km (46.6 miles), 260 000 within 50 km (31.8 miles).

USGS issued orange alert level for shaking-related fatalities. Significant casualties are likely.

A red alert level was issued for economic losses. Extensive damage is probable and the disaster is likely widespread. Estimated economic losses are less than 1% of GDP of Italy. Past events with this alert level have required a national or international level response.

Overall, the population in this region resides in structures that are a mix of vulnerable and earthquake resistant construction. The predominant vulnerable building types are unreinforced brick with mud and mid-rise nonductile concrete frame with infill construction.

Recent earthquakes in this area have caused secondary hazards such as landslides that might have contributed to losses.

EMSC registered 64 aftershocks (M1.6 – 5.5) by 05:31 UTC.

Estimated population exposure to earthquake shaking

*Estimated exposure only includes population within map area (k = x1,000)
Modified Mercalli Intensity (MMI) scale

Selected cities exposed

From GeoNames Database of Cities with 1,000 or more residents (k = x1,000)

The worst hit towns were believed to be Accumoli, Amatrice, Posta and Arquata del Tronto, said Roma's Fire Department spokesman Luca Cari.

The mayor of the small town of Amatrice reported extensive damage. "Half the town is gone," he told RAI. "There's been a landslide and a bridge might collapse." He added that Amatrice had been cut off because of damage to roads and a bridge, and appealed during a live television broadcast for assistance. 

“There are people stuck in the rubble,” he said and called emergency services to help clear roads. “Houses are no longer there,” he added, suggesting that victims had been buried in the debris.

The mayor of Accumoli said a number of buildings had been badly damaged. A family of four has been located under the debris of a collapsed building but there are no signs of life.

RAI quoted police as saying two people were known to have died in the nearby village of Pescara del Tronto.

Aerial image of damage in Amatrice. Credit: BBC

As of 05:00 UTC, at least 6 people have been killed. The death toll is expected to rise.

ER reported at 11:20 UTC that the death toll has risen to over 50. Amatrice has seen 35 deaths, Marche 10.

As of 17:13 UTC, the death toll has risen to 73. Many people are still believed buried under the rubble, and the death toll is expected to rise.

As of August 27, the death toll has risen to 291. 230 in Amatrice, 50 in Arquata del Tronto and 11 in Accumoli, ER reports.

On August 29, authorities said two more bodies have been pulled out from the rubble in Amatrice, raising the overall death toll to 292. Amatrice's mayor has said about 10 people are unaccounted for.

Video courtesy RT

Video courtesy EQForecaster

The last major earthquake to hit Italy – Mw6.0 – struck the central city of L'Aquila in 2009, killing more than 300 people. 65 000 people were left homeless.

Featured image credit: USGS

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