Major earthquake strikes central Italy
According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) a major moment magnitude 6.3 earthquake has struck Central Italy at 3:32 a.m. local time with a 4.8 aftershock about an hour after. Earlier reports from the USGS had said the quake was a 6.7. Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics registered the quake at a Richter magnitude of 5.8.
The epicenter was registered 95 kilometres (60 miles) Northeast of Italy’s capital of Rome. It registered a depth of 10 kilometres (6.2 miles).
At least nine aftershocks, with the highest being a magnitude 4.8, have shaken the area since the initial earthquake.
At least 150 people have been killed in the region and officials say the death toll is likely to rise. According to the RAI (Italian public broadcasting service) and press agencies, at least 1,500 people have been injured.
No less than six people, four children, and an elderly woman, are reported to have been killed in a building collapse in L’Aquila, where most of the shaking was felt and at least six students are trapped beneath the rubble of a partially collapsed college dormitory. The USGS says nearly 70,000 people live in L’Aquila, with hundreds of thousands more people residing in the surrounding areas.
Several buildings are reported to be collapsed or damaged in the city, including a church and school. The BBC reports the area as “hard hit.” BNOnews reports that there are thousands of buildings damaged or collapsed in the region. Reports say as many as 50,000 houses and buildings have been destroyed, leaving thousands of people homeless. The mayor of L’Aquila, Massimo Cialente, declared that Onna fraction, a small conglomerate of houses near the capital of Abruzzo, was completely destroyed.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has declared a state of emergency for the region, and is returning to Italy to coordinate the relief operations. The Minister of the Interior, Roberto Maroni, is also travelling to L’Aquila to offer collaboration from the government.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman contacted Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini to offer the assistance of Israel’s natural disaster SAR teams.
This is the deadliest quake in Italy since November 23, 1980, when nearly 3,000 people were killed in a magnitude 6.8 earthquake that struck Southern Italy in the Irpinia region. At least 10,000 were injured with over 300,000 being left homeless.