Deadly 6.0 Earthquake Hits Emilia-Romagna Region [updated 5/24/2012]

Italy is quite a seismically active country, with not just several active volcanoes but also regular earthquakes. You may recall the devastating quake that hit L’Aquila in the Abruzzo region in 2009 – this time the earth shook in the Emilia-Romagna region near Bologna over the weekend.

The 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck very early on Sunday, May 20, toppling buildings and leaving thousands homeless. The death toll stands at seven currently, although that number could rise as rescue efforts dig through the rubble. Aftershocks have rippled through the region since the original quake, further damaging structures and frightening residents.

The earthquake’s epicenter was about 22 miles north of Bologna in a town called Finale Emilia, and there are reports of people feeling the shaking as far away as Milan and Venice. Many historic buildings, including castles and churches, are among those heavily damaged or completely destroyed by the quake. The roof of a 16th century chapel near Ferrara that had been recently restored may be beyond repair after collapsing. A 14th century castle in San Felice Sul Panaro partially collapsed. In Finale Emilia itself, churches with “centuries-old paintings” inside were badly damaged, but one of the most enduring images to come out of the rubble thus far is the town’s also “centuries-old” clock tower – half of the tower collapsed during the earthquake, cutting the clock face in two.




One of the more unexpected stories to come out since the earthquake is that some of the warehouses that store the region’s famous cheeses – parmigiano-reggiano and grana padano – were damaged, which officials are saying led to more than 300,000 giant wheels of cheese being destroyed. Clearly the loss of cheese doesn’t compare with the loss of life, and yet it’s important to remember what a big financial loss those 300,000 wheels of cheese represent to the region. One conservative estimate says it’s at least €250,000 worth of cheese.

I’ll continue to update this page as more stories come out, and (hopefully) as donation funds are set up to help the rescue and relief efforts.

More reports on the earthquake (updated May 24, 2012):