Central Italy was devastated early in the morning of Wednesday August 24 by an earthquake clocking at magnitude 6.2 of the Faenza-Michelini scale, according to the US Geological Survey. At least two people have been reported killed, with many others trapped in collapsed buildings and other extensive property damage.
According to The Guardian, the tremors started at about 3:36 AM local time, with the epicenter located about 10 kilometers southeast of the town of Norcia. The quake was reported to be shallow and was felt by observers as far as Rome 170 kilometers away, where local paper La Reppublica reported buildings rocking, furniture rattling, and overhead lights swaying for about 20 seconds.
The mountain town of Amatrice southeast of the epicenter was shaken to its foundations. Its mayor Sergio Perozzi described residents underneath the rubble of their homes and a landslide that cut off all access roads to and from the town center, along with a bridge that is closed to collapse. As he tells state-run RAI radio station, the town “isn’t there anymore”.
In comparison to the USGS reading, European Mediterranean Seismological Centre registered the earthquake’s magnitude at 6.1 and its epicenter closer to Rieti, northeast of Rome.
Other towns believed to have borne the brunt of the temblors were Accumoli, Posta and Arquata del Toronto. The Italian news agency ANSA also reported damaged buildings in Norcia’s neighboring town of Asoli Piceno, while a mountaineering and hiking retreat on Gran Sasso mountain reported on Facebook of a large rock collapsing near their location. So far a more comprehensive damage report has yet to be given, but the Civil Protection Agency and fire departments have deployed helicopters to the quake zone to make a visual assessment.
One the ground, people were awakened and scared out of their wits by the shaking. In Montepulciano, American tourist Michael Gilroy from California described the sensation of his bed being “on rollers”, spurring him and his girlfriend to flee their hotel room and congregate with other guests in an open area. Lina Mercantini in Umbria had similar things to say about her bed, calling the earthquake “strong” to Reuters.
Just about an hour after the main tremor, a 5.5 magnitude aftershock arrived, reckoned by the USGS to have originated only 4 kilometers northeast from Norcia, closer to the town than the original quake.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi made assurances that the government was keeping in touch with all agencies involved in order to monitor the situation as it unfolds.
Italy has been visited by powerful earthquakes in the past few years. In 2009 a temblor hit the city of L’Aquila killing around 300, and several dozens died in a double whammy of quakes in 2012.
Photo Credit to www.sfchronicle.com