6.2-magnitude earthquake strikes central Italy

A 6.2-magnitude earthquake in Italy early this morning destroyed buildings and killed at least 37 people, while others remain trapped in the rubble, the BBC reports.

“Half the town is gone,” the BBC quoted the mayor of Amatrice, one of the areas worst affected, as saying.

The quake hit at 3:36 AM local time (9:36 PM Tuesday, EDT), 100 km (65 miles) northeast of Rome, at a shallow depth of only 10 km.

An earthquake leveled buildings in the Abruzzo region of central Italy back in 2009, killing more than 300 people and displacing about 65,000 others. This earthquake:

occurred as the result of shallow normal faulting on a NW-SE oriented fault in the Central Apennines. Geologically, the Apennines is largely an accretionary wedge formed as a consequence of subduction. This region is tectonically and geologically complex, involving both subduction of the Adria micro-plate beneath the Apennines from east to west, continental collision between the Eurasia and Africa plates building the Alpine mountain belt further to the north and the opening of the Tyrrhenian basin to the west. The evolution of this system has caused the expression of all different tectonic styles acting at the same time in a broad region surrounding Italy and the central Mediterranean. The August 24, 2016 normal faulting earthquake is an expression of the east-west extensional tectonics that now dominate along the Apennine belt, primarily a response to the Tyrrhenian basin opening faster than the compression between the Eurasia and Africa plates. At the location of the earthquake, the Eurasia plate moves towards the northeast with respect to Africa at a rate of approximately 24 mm/yr. —US Geological Survey

By early morning, according to Fabrizio Curcio, the director of the Civil Protection Department, national rescue operations had been put in place and were able to reach the most damaged towns. “We have to carry out an analysis of the territory and see if there are other places that have to be reached,” the New York Times quoted him as saying.

Some rescue teams have had difficulty in the mountainous area. Winding country roads provide the sole access to many towns, and those single points of entry have been rendered impassable.

The quake lasted about 20 seconds, with aftershocks beginning about 20 minutes later, including one that was, according to news reports, just about as strong.

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Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.