Third devastating earthquake strikes Italy within a week

Basilica of St. Benedict, in Norcia, Central Italy, following the Oct. 30 earthquake / Matteo Guidelli (AP)

Le Marche is perhaps the most picturesque region of Italy, its multi-faced beauty shown with cliffs and hills that are steeped in history set against a backdrop of gorgeous mountains. On Oct. 30, the Marche region was rocked with a 7.1 magnitude earthquake. Italy’s most powerful quake since 1980 has left more than 15,000 people homeless, according to the country’s civil protection agency. Hotels on the Adriatic coast are sheltering close to 4,000. More than 100 aftershocks were felt overnight into Monday, including one of magnitude 4.2.

On Oct. 26, the same region was struck with two strong earthquakes — just two hours apart from each other — rocked central Italy, causing a massive amount of damage, just two months after a deadly earthquake hit nearby cities and towns.

The first quake, a 5.5-magnitude on the Richter scale, struck the region at 7:10 p.m. and could be felt across central Italy. The second, a noticeably stronger quake which measured at 6.1, struck at 9:18 p.m. and could be felt strongly in Rome. According to seismologists (scientists who study earthquakes and planetary activities as well as their effects) the one-two punch packed by the quakes were actually aftershocks to the earthquake on August 24. The Marche area continued to be hit by aftershocks throughout the night — about 200 of them. Of those, more than 30 were of magnitude 3.0 or greater, according to the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology.

Newspapers and television showed images of streets filled with people so disorientated and stricken with fear that many fell asleep in their cars because they were too afraid to return to their homes. These same images showed the extensive amount of damage and rubble from collapsed buildings and walls.

Ussita’s mayor, Marco Rinaldi, told reporters that the damage was “apocalyptic” in scale, but that he was confident that there were no causalities in the town.

“It was an unheard-of violence. Many houses collapsed,” Rinaldo told Sky TG24. “By now, I have felt many earthquakes. This is the strongest of my life. It was something so terrible. The final count of damages will be done with the first lights of dawn. The valley is so small, and the fault line passes here.”

In Visso, panic-stricken locals ran into the streets and piazzas of the town. A woman who frantically ran out of her office told reporters that the walls fell in on her, saying, “All the objects and books fell off the shelves. I ran down the stairs and outside it was all dust. People were screaming.”

About 800 people in Visso were without shelter and Mayor Giuliano Passaglini said he was only able to provide shelter for about two hundred residents. He told reporters that he was making it his duty to not leave anyone in the streets and laid out options for accommodations.

The quakes not only hit the Marche region, but the neighbouring regions of Tuscany, Lazio and Umbria.

Italian authorities are still dealing with the effects of the August 24 quake which destroyed the mountain villages of Amatrice, Accumoli, Pescara del Tronto and Arquata del Tronto. This disaster claimed the lives of 297 people, left hundreds injured and thousands homeless. It caused an estimated four billion euros of damage, with 1,400 people still living in temporary accommodations.

Sergio Pirozzi, the mayor of Amatrice, the hilltop village destroyed in the August earthquake, said residents had felt the aftershocks. “We are thanking God that there are no dead and no injured.”

The U.S. Geological Survey estimated that the earthquakes were left by more than 20 million Italians.

-Loredana Del Bello, Assistant News Editor

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