New Italy Quake Rocks National Economy and Strikes Already Battered Region: 800 Aftershocks With ‘More To Come’
(May 29) The second powerful earthquake to hit Italy in little over a week has carved a swathe of destruction across one of the country’s richest and most productive regions and given a fresh headache to an economy already deep in recession. At least 16 people were killed Tuesday as a 5.8-magnitude quake hit the same northern Italian region devastated by a deadly tremor on May 20.
Of Italy’s 20 regions, Emilia-Romagna has the fourth-biggest gross domestic product, more than 135 billion euros in real terms in 2009. The quakes are yet another setback for an economy already hobbled by rising unemployment, a severe recession and the weight of tough austerity measures taken by Monti to stave off a Greek-style default. Damage to the agricultural industry, including Parmesan makers whose aging wheels of cheese already suffered in the first quake, had risen to €500 million ($626 million) with the second hit. The Modena Chamber of Commerce estimated that the first quake alone had cost businesses €1.5 million, with no fresh estimates immediately available.
While the quakes are likely to have a national economic impact, they are also a blow to Italy’s cultural heritage because Emilia-Romagna is rich in art and architecture. Italian media reported serious damage to the Baroque cathedral in Carpi, and the Te palace in Mantua, an architectural masterpiece of the late Renaissance filled with works of art, and the dome of St. Barbara’s Basilica in Mantua was reported to have collapsed.
The strong and unusually shallow earthquake that struck northern Italy nine days ago was fairly surprising to seismologists. The powerful shaking was a first for the region in centuries. Data indicate the magnitude 6.0 quake was a thrust quake — the type of earthquake caused when two tectonic plates smash together — yet it occurred at a depth of just 3 miles (5 kilometers). The shallower a quake, the more damage it can cause because as the seismic energy moves through the ground some of it is dissipated.
Now a week later, experts are telling residents of Emilia Romagna that it is likely the spate of earthquakes could continue for years. The new tremors reveal a very complex geological situation and experts believe a new fault line has broken. The two quakes originated from two entirely different faults deep below the surface but they were caused by the same phenomenon. The whole area has been shaking for a year, with shocks above 4.5, and nobody knows when it will stop.
The strong quake rocked an area with a long history of earthquakes, yet one that has kept relatively quiet for hundreds of years. If areas previously predicted as having low to moderate risks are experiencing unusual quakes, what does that say about earthquake-prone areas? If earthquake swarms have predictive values, what does that say about unusual swarms observed in many other areas? Was it fortold in the Bible that seismic activiy would increase in the last days and culminate in the Great Global Earthquake? When that happens, there will be no earthquake free areas.
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