UPDATE :Italy Earthquake: Death Toll Passes 240, As Rescue Efforts Continue

The death toll in the Italian earthquake stands at 241 as thousands of rescuers continue efforts to find survivors.

quake

Dozens are believed trapped in ruined Amatrice, Accumoli and Pescara del Tronto, in mountainous central Italy.

Rescuers have advised journalists and bystanders to leave Amatrice urgently, as “the town is crumbling”, the BBC’s Jenny Hill says.
New cracks appeared in the town’s hospital after strong aftershocks.

Officials revised down the number of dead after earlier giving a figure of 247.

The search for survivors went on through the night, amid hundreds of tremors and an aftershock which rocked already damaged buildings.

More than 4,300 rescuers are using heavy lifting equipment and their bare hands.

Many of the victims were children, the health minister said, and there were warnings the toll could rise further.

The heaviest death toll was in Amatrice – 184, officials said. Another 46 died in Arquata, and 11 in Accumoli.

The 6.2-magnitude quake hit at 03:36 (01:36 GMT) on Wednesday 100km (65 miles) north-east of Rome.

Some aftershocks were felt as far away as Rome.

“We are sleeping in the car and there were shocks all night. When the biggest one came, the car started moving and shaking,” said Monica, a survivor from Amatrice.

At the scene: BBC’s Damian Grammaticas in Pescara del Tronto

Two firemen burrowed deep into the rubble looking for a survivor. “It’s a dog,” one of them shouted out.

For half an hour the men kept digging. They passed water down to be given to the animal. And eventually they worked it free, then emerged, carrying it to the surface. There was a ripple of congratulations through the crowd.

“It doesn’t matter to us if it’s a person or an animal, we save it,” said Gianni Macerata, the fire officer in charge.

So the digging goes on. But so little is left of Pescara del Tronto it is unlikely that more survivors will be found here.

It seems unlikely too that this ancient little place, that has stood for centuries, can ever be rebuilt. Hundreds of years of history ended in an instant.

A tented camp has been set up, as so many buildings are now unsafe.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was chairing an emergency cabinet meeting on Thursday. The agenda included reconstruction plans for the devastated area.

Grief and anger in Italian press

Rescuers said they had pulled five bodies from the ruins of the Hotel Roma in Amatrice. As many as 70 tourists were staying at the hotel when the quake struck. Many are feared to be in the rubble, though several were pulled out and given medical care.

Many of those affected were Italians on holiday in the region. Some were in Amatrice for a festival to celebrate a famous local speciality – amatriciana bacon and tomato sauce.

Late on Wednesday there were cheers in the village of Pescara del Tronto when a young girl was pulled alive from the rubble after being trapped for 17 hours. Almost all the houses there had collapsed, the mayor said.

Among the victims was an 18-month-old toddler, Marisol Piermarini, whose mother Martina Turco survived the deadly 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila and moved away from there after the experience, Italian news agency Ansa reported.

Ms Turco was being treated in hospital after being pulled from the rubble in the village of Arquata del Tronto, Ansa said.

he mayor of Amatrice said three-quarters of the town had been destroyed and no building was safe for habitation.

The country is no stranger to earthquakes: the 2009 L’Aquila tremor killed more than 300 people and in May 2012 two tremors nine days apart killed more than 20 people in the northern Emilia Romagna region.

UPDATE :Strong Earthquake Shakes Italian Towns

AMATRICE, Italy — A strong earthquake in central Italy reduced three towns to rubble as people slept early Wednesday, with reports that as many as 50 people were killed and hundreds injured as rescue crews raced to dig out survivors.

Italy-Quake

The toll was likely to rise as crews reached homes in more remote hamlets where the scenes were apocalyptic “like Dante’s Inferno,” according to one witness.

“The town isn’t here anymore,” said Sergio Pirozzi, the mayor of Amatrice. “I believe the toll will rise.”

The magnitude 6 quake struck at 3:36 a.m. (0136 GMT) and was felt across a broad swath of central Italy, including Rome, where residents felt a long swaying followed by aftershocks. The temblor shook the Lazio region and Umbria and Le Marche on the Adriatic coast.

Premier Matteo Renzi planned to head to the zone later Wednesday and promised: “No family, no city, no hamlet will be left behind.”

The hardest-hit towns were Amatrice and Accumoli near Rieti, some 100 kilometers (80 miles) northeast of Rome, and Pescara del Tronto some 25 kilometers further east. Italy’s civil protection agency said the preliminary toll was 38 dead, several hundred injured and thousands in need of temporary housing, though it stressed the numbers were fluid.

The ANSA news agency said 35 of the dead were in Amatrice alone, with another 17 dead in the province of Ascoli Piceno, which includes Pescara del Tronto, for a reported total topping 50.

The center of Amatrice was devastated, with entire buildings razed and the air thick with dust and smelling strongly of gas. Amatrice, birthplace of the famed spaghetti all’amatriciana bacon-tomato pasta sauce, is made up of 69 hamlets that rescue teams were working to reach.

Rocks and metal tumbled onto the streets of the city center and dazed residents huddled in piazzas as more than 40 aftershocks jolted the region into the early morning hours, some as strong as 5.1.

“The whole ceiling fell but did not hit me,” marveled resident Maria Gianni. “I just managed to put a pillow on my head and I wasn’t hit luckily, just slightly injured my leg.”

Another woman, sitting in front of her destroyed home with a blanket over her shoulders, said she didn’t know what had become of her loved ones.

“It was one of the most beautiful towns of Italy and now there’s nothing left,” she said, too distraught to give her name. “I don’t know what we’ll do.”

As daylight dawned, residents, civil protection workers and even priests began digging out with shovels, bulldozers and their bare hands, trying to reach survivors. There was relief as a woman was pulled out alive from one building, followed by a dog.

“We need chain saws, shears to cut iron bars, and jacks to remove beams: everything, we need everything,” civil protection worker Andrea Gentili told The Associated Press. Italy’s national blood drive association appealed for donations to Rieti’s hospital.

But just a few kilometers to the north, in Illica, the response was slower as residents anxiously waited for loved ones to be extracted from the rubble.

“We came out to the piazza, and it looked like Dante’s Inferno,” said Agostino Severo, a Rome resident visiting Illica. “People crying for help, help. Rescue workers arrived after one hour… one and a half hours.”

The devastation harked back to the 2009 quake that killed more than 300 people in and around L’Aquila, about 90 kilometers (55 miles) south of the latest quake. The town sent emergency teams Wednesday to help with the rescue.

“I don’t know what to say. We are living this immense tragedy,” said a tearful Rev. Savino D’Amelio, a parish priest in Amatrice. “We are only hoping there will be the least number of victims possible and that we all have the courage to move on.”

Another hard-hit town was Pescara del Tronto, in the Le Marche region, where the main road was covered in debris. The ANSA news agency reported 10 dead there without citing the source, but there was no confirmation.

Residents were digging their neighbors out by hand since emergency crews hadn’t yet arrived in force. Photos taken from the air by regional firefighters showed the town essentially flattened; Italy requested EU satellite images of the whole area to get the scope of the damage.

“There are broken liquor bottles all over the place,” lamented Gino Petrucci, owner of a bar in nearby Arquata Del Tronto where he was beginning the long cleanup.

The Italian geological service put the magnitude at 6.0; the U.S. Geological Survey reported 6.2 with the epicenter at Norcia, about 170 kilometers (105 miles) northeast of Rome, and with a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometers (6 miles).

“Quakes with this magnitude at this depth in our territory in general create building collapses, which can result in deaths,” said the head of Italy’s civil protection service, Fabrizio Curcio. He added that the region is popular with tourists escaping the heat of Rome, with more residents than at other times of the year, and that a single building collapse could raise the toll significantly.

The mayor of Accumoli, Stefano Petrucci, said six people had died there, including a family of four, and two others. He wept as he noted that the tiny hamlet of 700 swells to 2,000 in the summer months, and that he feared for the future of the town.

“I hope they don’t forget us,” he told Sky TG24.

In Amatrice, the Rev. Fabio Gammarota, priest of a nearby parish, said he had blessed seven bodies extracted so far. “One was a friend of mine,” he said.

The mayor, Pirozzi, estimated dozens of residents were buried under collapsed buildings and that heavy equipment was needed to clear streets clogged with debris.

A 1997 quake killed a dozen people in central Italy and severely damaged one of the jewels of Umbria, the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, filled with Giotto frescoes. The Franciscan friars who are the custodians of the basilica reported no immediate damage from Wednesday’s temblor.

Pope Francis skipped his traditional catechism for his Wednesday general audience and instead invited pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square to recite the rosary with him.

Powerful Quake Rocks Myanmar, Killing At Least 4

A powerful magnitude-6.8 earthquake struck central Myanmar on Wednesday, killing at least four people and damaging buildings and ancient monuments, authorities said.

Myanmar
Myanmar

The quake’s epicenter was located in an area west of the ancient capital Bagan and took place about 52 miles below the Earth’s surface, the U.S. Geological Survey said. Deep quakes typically cause less damage than shallow ones.

The quake came on the same day that another measuring magnitude-6.2 struck central Italy, killing more than 100 people.

Tremors from the Myanmar quake were felt as far away as India and Thailand.

Bagan is home to 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries, and at least 185 brick pagodas were damaged, the state newspaper reported

A fire department official from regional capital Magwe told Reuters that two young girls were killed when a riverbank gave way in Yenanchaung township. Another person died when a tobacco processing factory collapsed in the town of Pakkoku, officials told the news agency.

“My house shook during the quake. Many people were scared and they ran out of the buildings,” Maung Maung Kyaw, a local official of the ruling National League for Democracy, told Reuters. “Some of the old buildings have cracks. The biggest damage is to the bank building in the town. The damage to other buildings isn’t that significant.”

6.2-Magnitude Earthquake Hits Central Italy, At Least 14 Dead

A strong earthquake struck central Italy early Wednesday, leaving people trapped beneath the rubble and terrified residents huddled outside, surrounded by collapsed buildings.

quake i

At least 14 people died following the 6.2-magnitude earthquake, according to CNN affiliate RAI.

The earthquake hit 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) southeast of Norcia at 3:36 a.m., the United States Geological Survey said. Its tremors rattled Rome about 100 miles away.

‘The town is no more’

In Amatrice, buildings collapsed and the mountainous town was left in ruins.

“The town is no more,” Mayor Sergio Pirozzi told the affiliate. “I have an appeal to make: we have access roads to the town cut off and people under the rubble, help us.”

He said there was no power, and it was crucial for rescue crews to get to the town.

“We don’t have any more light (electricity) and it is urgent to clear the access roads,” he said.

Waiting for daylight

Charlotte Smith, coach of Elon University women’s basketball team in North Carolina, was in Rome with her players when the quake hit.

“It lasted for at least 30 seconds. The entire hotel was shaking,” she said. “I went down to the lobby and there were a lot of people waiting there. … Then an earthquake happened 30 minutes later.”

She said their flight is still on schedule to leave for the United States later Wednesday.

Michael Gilroy was on the second floor of a three-story building in Montepulciano when the earthquake hit. It sent them fleeing into the night

“It felt like the bed was on rollers,” he said.

“It was initially very confusing. I’m from California and had a sense of what it may be. And we ran out to the main area and the chandelier was swaying back and forth. At that point, we knew we had to get out of the building as fast as we can.”

Gilroy, his girlfriend and other hotel guests waited outside in a clear area.

“We’re going to wait for daylight and see what happens from there,” he said.

Aftershock

About an hour after the earthquake, a 5.5-magnitude aftershock hit near Norcia, one of several that followed.

“At that shallowness and magnitude of 6.2, we’re going to expect lots of aftershocks for next several hours and maybe the next several days,” said Jessica Turner of the USGS.

Landslides are likely because the earthquake struck in a mountainous area, she said.

Although the extent of damage and injuries was not immediately clear, the earthquake could be devastating.

“Overall, the population in this region resides in structures that are a mix of vulnerable and earthquake resistant construction,” the USGS said.

It described the buildings as un-reinforced brick with mud and concrete frame with infill construction.

Recent quakes

Deadly earthquakes have struck Italy in recent years.

In May 2012, a pair of earthquakes killed dozens of people in northern Italy.

In April 2009, a 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit central Italy, killing 295. The earthquake Wednesday struck an area close to the 2009 earthquake.

The US Embassy in Italy urged Americans to check-in via social media and let loved ones know they are safe.

Ancient Temples In The Himalaya Reveal Signs Of Past Earthquakes

Tilted pillars, cracked steps, and sliding stone canopies in a number of 7th-century A.D. temples in northwest India are among the telltale signs that seismologists are using to reconstruct the extent of some of the region’s larger historic earthquakes.

ancienttempl

In their report published online July 27 in Seismological Research Letters, Mayank Joshi and V.C. Thakur of the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology show how the signs of destructive earthquakes are imprinted upon the ancient stone and wooden temples.

The temples in the Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh, India lie within the Kashmir “seismic gap” of the Northwest Himalaya range, an area that is thought to have the potential for earthquakes magnitude 7.5 or larger. The new analysis extends rupture zones for the 1905 Kangra earthquake (magnitude 7.8) and the 1555 Kashmir earthquake (possibly a magnitude 7.6 quake) within the Kashmir gap.

The type of damage sustained by temples clustered around two towns in the region—Chamba and Bharmour—suggests that the Chamba temples may have been affected by the 1555 earthquake, while the Bharmour temples were damaged by the 1905 quake, the seismologists conclude.

The epicenter of the 1555 earthquake is thought to be in the Srinagar Valley, about 200 kilometers northwest of Chamba. If the 1555 earthquake did extend all the way to Chamba, Joshi said, “this further implies that the eastern Kashmir Himalaya segment between Srinagar and Chamba has not been struck by a major earthquake for the last 451 years.”

The stress built up in this section of the fault, Joshi added, “may be able to generate an earthquake of similar magnitude to that of the 2005 Kashmir earthquake that devastated the eastern Kashmir.”

That magnitude 7.6 earthquake killed more than 85,000 people, mostly in north Pakistan, and caused massive infrastructure damage.

To better understand the historical earthquake record in the region, Joshi and Thakur examined several temples in the region to look for telltale signs of earthquake damage. It can be difficult at first to distinguish whether a tilted pillar, for example, is due to centuries of aging or to earthquake deformation.
But Joshi noted that archaeoseismologists are trained to look for regular kinds of deformation to a structure—damages “that have some consistency in their pattern and orientation,” said Joshi. “In the cases of aging and ground subsidence, there is no regular pattern of damage.”

At the temples, the researchers measured the tilt direction, the amount of inclination on pillars and the full temple structures, and cracks in building stones, among other types of damage. They then compared this damage to historic accounts of earthquakes and information about area faults to determine which earthquakes were most likely to have caused the damage.

“In the Chamba-area temples, there are some marker features that indicate that the body of the temple structure has suffered some internal deformation,” said Joshi. “The pillars and temple structures are tilted with respect to their original positions. The rooftop portions show tilting or displacement.”
Other earthquake damage uncovered by the researchers included upwarping of stone floors, cracked walls, and a precariously leaning fort wall.

“The deformation features also give some clues about the intensity of an earthquake,” Joshi explained. “For example if a structure experiences a higher intensity XI or X, then the structure could collapse. But if the structure is not collapsed but it tilts only, then it indicates that the structure experienced lower intensity of IX and VIII.”

The Mercalli intensity scale is a measurement of the observed effects of an earthquake, such as its impact on buildings and other infrastructure. Scale measurements of VIII (“severe”) and IX (“violent”) would indicate significant damage, while higher scale measurements indicate partial to complete destruction of buildings, roads, and other infrastructure.

Deep ‘Scars’ From Ancient Geological Events Play Role In Current Earthquakes

Super-computer modelling of Earth’s crust and upper-mantle suggests that ancient geologic events may have left deep ‘scars’ that can come to life to play a role in earthquakes, mountain formation, and other ongoing processes on our planet.

quake

This changes the widespread view that only interactions at the boundaries between continent-sized tectonic plates could be responsible for such events.

A team of researchers from the University of Toronto and the University of Aberdeen have created models indicating that former plate boundaries may stay hidden deep beneath the Earth’s surface. These multi-million-year-old structures, situated at sites away from existing plate boundaries, may trigger changes in the structure and properties at the surface in the interior regions of continents.

“This is a potentially major revision to the fundamental idea of plate tectonics,” says lead author Philip Heron, a postdoctoral fellow in Russell Pysklywec’s research group in U of T’s Department of Earth Sciences. Their paper, “Lasting mantle scars lead to perennial plate tectonics,” appears in the June 10, 2016 edition of Nature Communications.

Heron and Pysklywec, together with University of Aberdeen geologist Randell Stephenson have even proposed a ‘perennial plate tectonic map’ of the Earth to help illustrate how ancient processes may have present-day implications.

“It’s based on the familiar global tectonic map that is taught starting in elementary school,” says Pysklywec, who is also chair of U of T’s Department of Earth Sciences. “What our models redefine and show on the map are dormant, hidden, ancient plate boundaries that could also be enduring or “perennial” sites of past and active plate tectonic activity.”

To demonstrate the dominating effects that anomalies below the Earth’s crust can have on shallow geological features, the researchers used U of T’s SciNet — home to Canada’s most powerful computer and one of the most powerful in the world- to make numerical models of the crust and upper-mantle into which they could introduce these scar-like anomalies.

The team essentially created an evolving “virtual Earth” to explore how such geodynamic models develop under different conditions.

“For these sorts of simulations, you need to go to a pretty high-resolution to understand what’s going on beneath the surface,” says Heron. “We modeled 1,500 kilometres across and 600 kilometres deep, but some parts of these structures could be just two or three kilometres wide. It is important to accurately resolve the smaller-scale stresses and strains.”

Using these models, the team found that different parts of the mantle below the Earth’s crust may control the folding, breaking, or flowing of the Earth’s crust within plates — in the form of mountain-building and seismic activity — when under compression.

In this way, the mantle structures dominate over shallower structures in the crust that had previously been seen as the main cause of such deformation within plates.

“The mantle is like the thermal engine of the planet and the crust is an eggshell above,” says Pysklywec. “We’re looking at the enigmatic and largely unexplored realm in the Earth where these two regions meet.”

“Most of the really big plate tectonic activity happens on the plate boundaries, like when India rammed into Asia to create the Himalayas or how the Atlantic opened to split North America from Europe,” says Heron. “But there are lots of things we couldn’t explain, like seismic activity and mountain-building away from plate boundaries in continent interiors.”

The research team believes their simulations show that these mantle anomalies are generated through ancient plate tectonic processes, such as the closing of ancient oceans, and can remain hidden at sites away from normal plate boundaries until reactivation generates tectonic folding, breaking, or flowing in plate interiors.

“Future exploration of what lies in the mantle beneath the crust may lead to further such discoveries on how our planet works, generating a greater understanding of how the past may affect our geologic future,” says Heron.

The research carries on the legacy of J. Tuzo Wilson, also a U of T scientist, and a legendary figure in geosciences who pioneered the idea of plate tectonics in the 1960’s.

“Plate tectonics is really the cornerstone of all geoscience,” says Pysklywec. “Ultimately, this information could even lead to ways to help better predict how and when earthquakes happen. It’s a key building block.”

Likely Cause For Recent Southeast US Earthquakes: Underside Of The North American Plate Peeling Off

The southeastern United States should, by all means, be relatively quiet in terms of seismic activity. It’s located in the interior of the North American Plate, far away from plate boundaries where earthquakes usually occur. But the area has seen some notable seismic events — most recently, the 2011 magnitude-5.8 earthquake near Mineral, Virginia that shook the nation’s capital.

quake

Now scientists report in a new study a likely explanation for this unusual activity: pieces of the mantle under this region have been periodically breaking off and sinking down into the Earth. This thins and weakens the remaining plate, making it more prone to slipping that causes earthquakes. The study authors conclude this process is ongoing and likely to produce more earthquakes in the future.

“Our idea supports the view that this seismicity will continue due to unbalanced stresses in the plate,” said Berk Biryol, a seismologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and lead author of the new study. “The [seismic] zones that are active will continue to be active for some time.” The study was published today in the Journal of Geophysical Research — Solid Earth, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

Compared to earthquakes near plate boundaries, earthquakes in the middle of plates are not well understood and the hazards they pose are difficult to quantify. The new findings could help scientists better understand the dangers these earthquakes present.

Old plates and earthquakes

Tectonic plates are composed of Earth’s crust and the uppermost portion of the mantle. Below is the asthenosphere: the warm, viscous conveyor belt of rock on which tectonic plates ride.

Earthquakes typically occur at the boundaries of tectonic plates, where one plate dips below another, thrusts another upward, or where plate edges scrape alongside each other. Earthquakes rarely occur in the middle of plates, but they can happen when ancient faults or rifts far below the surface reactivate. These areas are relatively weak compared to the surrounding plate, and can easily slip and cause an earthquake.

Today, the southeastern U.S. is more than 1,056 miles from the nearest edge of the North American Plate, which covers all of North America, Greenland and parts of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans. But the region was built over the past billion years by periods of accretion, when new material is added to a plate, and rifting, when plates split apart. Biryol and colleagues suspected ancient fault lines or pieces of old plates extending deep in the mantle following episodes of accretion and rifting could be responsible for earthquakes in the area.

“This region has not been active for a long time,” Biryol said. “We were intrigued by what was going on and how we can link these activities to structures in deeper parts of the Earth.”

A CAT scan of the Earth

To find out what was happening deep below the surface, the researchers created 3D images of the mantle portion of the North American Plate. Just as doctors image internal organs by tracing the paths of x-rays through human bodies, seismologists image the interior of the Earth by tracing the paths of seismic waves created by earthquakes as they move through the ground. These waves travel faster through colder, stiffer, denser rocks and slower through warmer, more elastic rocks. Rocks cool and harden as they age, so the faster seismic waves travel, the older the rocks.

The researchers used tremors caused by earthquakes more than 2,200 miles away to create a 3D map of the mantle underlying the U.S. east of the Mississippi River and south of the Ohio River. They found plate thickness in the southeast U.S. to be fairly uneven — they saw thick areas of dense, older rock stretching downward and thin areas of less dense, younger rock.

“This was an interesting finding because everybody thought that this is a stable region, and we would expect regular plate thickness,” Biryol said.

At first, they thought the thick, old rocks could be remnants of ancient tectonic plates. But the shapes and locations of the thick and thin regions suggested a different explanation: through past rifting and accretion, areas of the North American Plate have become more dense and were pulled downward into the mantle through gravity. At certain times, the densest parts broke off from the plate and sank into the warm asthenosphere below. The asthenosphere, being lighter and more buoyant, surged in to fill the void created by the missing pieces of mantle, eventually cooling to become the thin, young rock in the images.

The researchers concluded this process is likely what causes earthquakes in this otherwise stable region: when the pieces of the mantle break off, the plate above them becomes thinner and more prone to slip along ancient fault lines. Typically, the thicker the plate, the stronger it is, and the less likely to produce earthquakes.

According to Biryol, pieces of the mantle have most likely been breaking off from underneath the plate since at least 65 million years ago. Because the researchers found fragments of hard rocks at shallow depths, this process is still ongoing and likely to continue into the future, potentially leading to more earthquakes in the region, he said.