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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Clock struck 3.36 am and Earthquake struck Amatrice, Italy.

Amatrice is a hilltop beauty spot famed as the home of amatriciana, one of Italy's favourite pasta sauces. Amatrice, in fact, was due to have its annual festival honouring its namesake food on August 27-28 in the historic centre now rendered to rubble. It is a popular destination for Romans seeking cool mountain air at the height of the summer. Amatrice is a town and comune in the province of Rieti, in northern Lazio (central Italy)– this city of agricultural base is in news for wrong reasons!

Seismicity in the Himalayan region  dominantly results from the continental collision of the India and Eurasia plates, which are converging at a relative rate of 40-50 mm/yr. Northward underthrusting of India beneath Eurasia generates numerous earthquakes and consequently makes this area one of the most seismically hazardous regions on Earth. The Indus-Tsangpo Suture Zone is located roughly 200 km north of the Himalaya Front and is defined by an exposed ophiolite chain along its southern margin.  To put it simply it is tremors ~i.e., Earthquake !!!

The April 2015 Nepal earthquake killed 9,000 people and injured more than 19,000 according to reports.  It was the worst natural disaster to strike Nepal since the 1934 Nepal–Bihar earthquake. The earthquake triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest.  Thousands were rendered homeless – some monuments were flattened too.   A second major earthquake occurred on 12 May 2015 at 12:35 NST – this  too caused deaths ! An earthquake (also known as a quake, tremor or temblor) is the perceptible shaking of the surface of the Earth, resulting from the sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust that creates seismic waves. Earthquakes can be violent enough to toss people around and destroy whole cities.

The clock on the 13th century tower in Amatrice, Italy, poignantly stopped just after Wednesday's earthquake struck at 3.36am.  The town was one of the hardest hit in the disaster, with at least 17 dying there, from a total of over 70 lives lost.  Reports suggest that the  death toll from the earthquake that hit Amatrice and other villages in central Italy is rising at an alarming rate. Some reports however add that  so far it looks as if the number of fatalities will be substantially lower than when an earthquake of comparable force hit the nearby city of L’Aquila in 2009, killing 309 people.  The casualty tally will nevertheless be far higher than it should be in a country of Italy’s wealth – but much lower than it might have been. The 6.2-magnitude earthquake, like the one that devastated L’Aquila, struck at night.

Had people been at work, in shops or at school, the outcome would have been much worse. Two years ago, President of Italy’s National Council of Geologists, said that according to some estimates, if the L’Aquila earthquake had struck when students were in their classrooms, “the number of victims would have been thousands, not hundreds”.  It is still not simple ~ 'Half the village has disappeared,' said Amatrice mayor Sergio Pirozzi, surveying a town centre that looked as if had been subjected to a bombing raid.  'To hear the mayor of Amatrice say his village no longer exists and knowing that there are children among the victims, is very upsetting for me,' he said. It was packed with visitors when the quake struck.

The first quake measured 6.2, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), which said it occurred at a shallow depth of 10 kilometres (six miles). It measured 6.0 according to Italian monitors, who put the depth at only four km. A 5.4-magnitude aftershock followed an hour later. Strong tremors were felt in the capital Rome, more than 100 miles from the epicenter near the city of Perugia - the epicentre was between Norcia and Accumoli.  The true horror of the Italian earthquake disaster was revealed  as witnesses described the hellish scenes as 'like Dante's inferno' and shocking pictures showed how four towns were almost wiped off the map.

There were cries of people shouting for help - rescue workers arrived after one hour... one and a half hours, states one media.  Thereafter, rescuers spoke of hearing children's screams from the rubble and locals were spotted frantically digging with their bare hands to try and save loved ones. The quake which devastated the mountainside towns and villages of Amatrice, Accumoli, Arquata del Tronto and Pescara del Tronto was so powerful that it even rocked buildings in the centre of Rome more than 100 miles away and was felt as far away as Croatia. The earthquake in Norcia occurred in a shallow fault in the Apennines, a chain of mountains that form the backbone of Italy’s ‘boot’. It is well known for being a highly complex and geologically active region as it sits at a point where several tectonic plates grind against each other.

According to the US Geological Survey,  the quake was caused by the stretching of the Earth’s crust as the tectonic plates beneath moved apart. Since the late Miocene a large basin has been opening up under the western Mediterranean Sea at the point where the massive Eurasian tectonic plate meets the African plate.  The earthquake in Norcia is thought to have been caused by the opening of the Tyrrhenian basin occurring faster than the compression between the Eurasian and African plates, causing the earth’s crust to stretch.  At the location of the earthquake, the Eurasian plate moves towards the northeast with respect to the African plate at a rate of around 24mm/yr, according to the US Geological Survey.

Compared to other much larger earthquakes, such as the one off the coast of Japan in 2011 which was magnitude 9.0, it occurred at a much shallower depth which  may account for the high levels of destruction seen in Norcia. The most powerful earthquake in Italian history, magnitude 7.4 quake destroyed at last 70 towns and cities, causing death of around 60,000 people occurred at Sicily in Jan 1693.

The natural disasters bring in untold hardships – quake destroys homes, buries people under rubble, roads and structures are damaged, powerlines get disrupted thereby bringing in darkness,  food, medicine all become scarce and sadly some humans resort to plundering when others are in distress !

Sad to be reading this…

Regards – S. Sampathkumar
24th Aug 2016 @ 22: 40 hrs.

Photo credit : Daily Mail; news Daily Mail; guardian BBC and more.

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