Italy is a country in mourning as its people attempt to put the pieces of their lives back together after an earthquake devastated their country. The current number of people who lost their lives in the Italy earthquake stands at 290. In the town of Arquata, a mass funeral was held for 35 victims who perished during the natural disaster. The BBC has reported on a statement given by Bishop Giovanni d’Ercole to the citizens of Arquata.
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) August 26, 2016
“Together, above all we will restore life to our communities, starting from our traditions and from the rubble of death.”
As Italy rebuilds, earthquake experts across the globe believe the worst is yet to come. Dr. Behzad Fatahi, a UTS Geotechnical and Earthquake Engineering senior lecturer has gone as far as to say that “no one in the world is safe.”
Dr. Fatahi spoke with news.com.au and is claiming that there are many places in the world that are long overdue for an earthquake measuring a six or higher.
“There are a lot of magnitude 6-plus earthquakes overdue in the Middle East, India, China, Japan and the US. There are some fault lines that have not released their energy for a while. There are at least 5-10 that are overdue, but we don’t know when they’re going to happen. The question is not will they be activated. The question is when.”
Doctor Fatahi cites what he calls the “return period.” The return period is a period of time in which an earthquake strikes along a fault line. If for example, a fault line has a return period of 100 years, a major earthquake can be expected once every century. If a return period passes without an earthquake, pressure continues to build which will lead to a much stronger earthquake once the fault line finally shakes. Doctor Fatahi claims that the return period has passed for many of the major fault lines around the Earth.
One part of the world is more likely to experience a major earthquake and that is the region known as the Ring of Fire. This seismic area encompasses Japan, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, and other countries in the Pacific Ocean. In the Ring of Fire, an earthquake is said to occur every 60 seconds. Some of the most devastating earthquakes in recent history have happened in this area. Many experts believe that it is only a matter of time before the Ring of Fire is struck with a cataclysmic earthquake.
Earthquakes in Italy do not seem to be common, even though Italy rests on top of two fault lines and is considered to be the most seismically active country in Europe. One of the fault lines is where the Eurasian Plate meets the African Plate. The 6.2 magnitude earthquake that struck Italy came on the 1,937-year anniversary of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius which buried Pompeii and Herculaneum under volcanic ash.
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The way that the fault line in Italy reacts is what causes the massive devastation that the world has witnessed over the last few days. Mark Quigley, an associate Professor of Earthquake Science in the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne commented about how the fault line in Italy causes major destruction.
“Eastern central Italy is moving to the NE relative to Rome. As a result, this region experiences normal faulting earthquakes as the land is torn apart. The fault systems are short and structurally complex, so the earthquakes are not overly large by global standards. But because the earthquakes are shallow and structurally complex, and because many of the local towns and cities contain vulnerable buildings, strong shaking from these earthquakes has the potential to inflict major damage and loss of life in urban areas.”
Earthquakes are one of the few natural disasters that can happen without any type of warning. Is Dr. Fatahi right? Are there going to be many more devastating earthquakes across the world?
[Photo by Antonio Calanni/AP Photo]