The quake was shallow, with its focus point (hypocenter) just 10 kilometers (6 miles) beneath the surface. The Guardian reports that people have been running into the streets in the affected towns as up to 39 aftershocks continued to be felt in the early hours of the morning. In fact, a M5.5 tremor struck the same region just an hour after the initial quake.
It’s likely that there will be many more aftershocks that could be almost as intense as the main event within the next days, weeks, and months.
This natural disaster was roughly the same depth – and intensity – of the infamous 2009 Aquila earthquake in central Italy. This tremor, whose focal point was at distance of 90 kilometers (60 miles) northeast of Rome, killed 309 people and created a highly controversial legal battle aimed at prosecuting several Italian scientists for failing to adequately predict the quake’s timing and power.
Italy is prone to earthquakes, thanks to its positioning along active fault lines and being in the middle of a titanic battle between two tectonic plates, the Eurasian and African. Essentially, the latter is colliding into the former at a rate of about 2 centimeters (0.79 inches) every year, which builds tension in the region.
In addition, the western Tyrrhenian Sea, between the mainland and Sardinia and Corsica, is slowly spreading apart, which is effectively pulling at the Apennines mountain range than runs through central Italy. There is also a subduction zone in the Adriatic to the east, and all contribute towards very complex earthquakes from time to time.
This particular event was caused by the same extensional faulting within the Apennines that caused the 2009 Aquila earthquake. Unfortunately, earthquakes will continue to occur along this region for the very same reasons for hundreds of generations to come.
If you are in the affected areas and are free to donate blood, please click here to see where the nearest donation point is.
Footage of the aftermath of the earthquake in Amatrice. ILFOGLIETTONE.IT via YouTube
Image in text: Based on the shaking, the USGS estimate that there is a 3 percent chance of between 100 and 1,000 fatalities. USGS