There was an earthquake in Bologna this morning. Though it was just the latest in a series of earthquakes, I still can’t help but be taken aback. The biggest one (magintude 5.9) was last Sunday, and though it originated in Mirandola, Pianura Padana (in the Po Valley region), it was felt for miles around. The worst of the damage was in the area immediately surrounding the epicenter, especially in Modena, Ferrara, and other small cities and towns, including Crevalcore, Poggio Rusco, San Giacomo Delle Segnate, San Giovanni Del Dosso, Schivenoglia, Villa Poma, Medolla, San Felice Sul Panaro, Borgofranco Sul Po, Carbonara Di Po, Magnacavallo, Moglia, Ostiglia, Pieve Di Coriano, Quingentole, Quistello, Revere, and Serravalle A Po. The INGV (Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia) published the following map of the quake, which struck around 4am Italy time:
Various news sources picked up the story, such that by the time Austin woke up he knew there had been an earthquake and asked if I was okay. To date, seven people have been found dead, including one woman near Bologna who may have died of a heart attack resulting from the stress. Here, the biggest impact was in the number of people pouring into the streets, but in the region of Emilia Romagna many buildings crumbled or even fell.
Since that first earthquake, tremors have been pretty continual. The INGV has been publishing a schedule here, and if you click on “Recent Earthquakes in Italy” you can scroll down to see just how many have happened. In a typical day, it is not unusual for six or seven magnitude two or three earthquakes to strike at the same spot, resulting in the sensation of rocking around on solid ground. My sister (who arrived in Bologna the day before the big one) said it felt like being on a train but not going anywhere.
Then, this morning, another magnitude 5.8 earthquake hit in Mirandola. This one has so far claimed fifteen victims, and was felt as far as Florence. Luckily, it was a bit later in the morning, at 9, so many people were already outside when it hit.
Seeing an earthquake on TV or reading about it in the news and living through it are entirely different experiences. Mirandola is only 36 kilometers away from here, so I am incredibly lucky that the only loss I’ve directly experienced is a teacup that fell off my counter early this morning. Compared to the communities that are losing whole towers and seeing their fields split open and their livelihoods crumbled to the floor, I’ve been really fortunate, especially since I was able to leave last week to go to London with my sister. It is incredibly weird, though, having people check up on me via email and text to make sure nothing happened and I’m alright, and seeing photos of the damage and recognizing all of those places.
We had dinner last night with Christina and her Dad, who invited a few people he’d met at church. One of them was saying she’s been constantly afraid for the past week, but was just starting to get comfortable again. Notwithstanding that comfortable has taken on a new meaning (who would have thought that seeing the clothes in your closet swinging with the light in the middle of the room and feeling your desk rock would count as comfortable?), having another quake hit so soon is devastating. It’s to the point now that Mario Monti was releasing statements from the NATO summit in Chicago, saying “Esprimo tutta la mia vicinanza alla popolazione delle zone colpite e il mio sentito cordoglio alle famiglie delle vittime. Stiamo vicini a chi soffre”. (“I express my closeness to the affected population and my heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims. We are close to those who are suffering.”) Many of those suffering are likely to be doing so for a long time, losing whole pieces of buildings, churches and storehouses.
Yes, living through a natural disaster (and at that an ongoing one) is not among the things I expected from this year in Italy. It is pretty incredible, though, seeing how people respond to what’s happened. Even my neighbors, to whom I’ve hardly spoken, have knocked to check on us, and the outpouring of comments to articles about the disaster is overwhelming. I think seeing a person deal with crisis shows you a lot about that person, and the same holds true for cities. Bologna, then, is indeed quite the place. I just hope it’s able to remain that way and the damage doesn’t stretch much farther.
A note on the photos: All of the pictures in this post were not taken by me. They have been taken from various news sources in Italy, and are reproduced solely for the purpose of demonstrating the effects of the earthquake.