Italy just shivered

“About 200 tremors.” That’s the line (from Italian seismologists) that stood out for me when I was writing about Wednesday’s multiple earthquakes in central Italy. Some 200 tremors registering above magnitude 2 in a single day, in a small part of the Apennines, the great mountain spine of Italy. 

What I needed was someone to put that into perspective – there have been tens of thousands of aftershocks since the 24 August disaster in the region – but other stories were breaking and the day shot by. Still, the figure is terrifying when you consider that magnitude 2.5 is the point where quakes start to make themselves felt. 

Four of Wednesday’s quakes exceeded magnitude 5: three in the morning and the fourth a few hours into the afternoon. It was a mercy that they did not occur in the night, bringing down roofs on sleeping people, as happened in August or in the L’Aquila disaster of 2009. Still at least one man was killed and another was missing after an avalanche. 

Those earlier quakes were stronger, and much more destructive and lethal of course, but the head of Marche region had good reason to talk of a “catastrophe” on Wednesday: the rural areas hit were already enveloped in snow, which snarled up rescue efforts. I imagine it will be some time before a proper damage assessment can be carried out in such conditions. 
If there was any comfort to be drawn from the news, it was in seeing the speed at which accommodation was found for the homeless: those AFP photos of the people bedding down in a giant tent in Abruzzo. Italy clearly knows what to do. Just heartbreaking that it has to do it do often now…

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