The high numbers of fatalities and people injured continue, even at this time of writing … seven days later, to rise and rise. Approaching 60,000 people have been left homeless. It will take many, many years to restore buildings … and much longer than that to restore the delicate social fabric of local communities.
It is a remarkable joy to experience the culture, and live among the people of one such small community in the centre of Italy … Amandola (≈ 4,500 inhabitants), which is a typical hilltop town located approximately 70 Km north of L’Aquila (≈ 67,000 inhabitants), capital of the Abruzzo Region.
Earthquakes between 6.1 and 6.9 on the Richter Scale regularly cause damage in areas up to 100 Kilometres away from the ‘epicentre’ … that point on the earth’s surface located vertically above the place deep within the Earth where the quake originated.
To put local news reports into some context … accurate measurement of dramatically increased levels of natural radon activity in soils, allied with a good understanding of local geology and seismology, can be an important, although not 100% reliable, indicator of what is happening deep underground. Unfortunately, and unlike in Ireland, radon protection of buildings is not taken seriously in Italy … so, not much attention would have been paid to what anybody said about radon activity in the soils around L’Aquila before the ‘big one’ hit !
Tremors from an earthquake, or trembling vibrations, can be felt strongly far away from an epicentre. I know, because I was in Amandola last Monday morning.
To be involved in Earthquake Resisting Design is one thing … I am very comfortable with technical issues, facts, concepts, building products, etc. To become intimate, however, with the ‘reality’ of a mother of an Earthquake is altogether different !
Jerked awake in those early hours … the building was rocking, not just swaying. Before reaching full consciousness … too much had already happened. If the building had collapsed, I would never have known what hit me. But, it didn’t … and there was no internal damage or cracking.
I don’t know why … but, I went back to sleep again.
Just after 08.00 hrs (local time), phone texts began to arrive from Ireland … “was everybody safe ?”. Something ‘big’ must have happened during the night. I rushed to put on the television news … forget about SKY NEWS, CNN, BBC and that miserable, no-good, laughable excuse for an ‘impartial, balanced and fair’ news service FOX NEWS … the best coverage … and continuous coverage … was on the Italian TV Stations.
Tragic scenes … of historical buildings destroyed … expected, because they would not be of modern (reinforced concrete or steel) construction … and, far many more than should be the case, of modern buildings seriously damaged or collapsed like a plate of pancakes … somewhat expected, because of inadequate technical controls over building design and construction in many parts of the country.
[Similar scenes of modern, ‘tofu’ construction could be witnessed after the Major Earthquakes in Central China, beginning in May 2008.]
Later that morning, I inspected an historical building which I had recently restored … and where I had incorporated earthquake resisting features. Relief, relief, relief … not a single crack.
Travelling back to Rome by car that afternoon, fleets of emergency response vehicles moved swiftly in the opposite direction towards the Earthquake Zone …