Strong Earthquakes Shake Northern Italy

An strong earthquake shook a large section of northern Italy at around 4am on Sunday morning.  Later on in the day, around 3 pm in the afternoon, another earthquake occurred.  Both earthquakes have caused considerable damage and loss of life.

The epicenter of the first earthquake was near Modena and registered 5.9 – 6.0 on the Richter scale.  The second earthquake registered 5.1 and worsened the damage caused by the early morning tremor.

Aftershocks have been felt throughout the day are continuing in the Modena/Ferrara area and are between 2.1 and 2.7 on the Richter scale according to the INGVterremoti seismic activity monitoring service on Twitter.

Scientists have said that they cannot rule out the occurrence of another major tremor.

UPDATE: May 21st, 2012 – Morning.

Low intensity earth tremors are still occurring in the Modena, Ferrara, Bologna and Rovigo areas of Italy.  The magnitude of the tremors ranges between 2.1 and 3.1 and they are occurring more or less hourly which suggests seismic activity in the area will continue for the moment.

Two minor, but noticeable earthquakes shook Milan in January this year  – as with the recent earthquakes, the epicenter of the January tremors was the Parma/Modena area.

—end of update—

It is likely that a state of emergency will be declared in the area of northern Italy affected by the earthquakes.
The map below shows where the 5.9 Richter scale earthquake hit in the Finale Emilia area:


Seven Deaths Reported

Seven deaths have been reported so far.  One 37 year old German woman died of apparent heart failure caused by the earthquake.  Other victims were factory workers on night shifts and two elderly women, one of whom died after she was hit by falling masonry.

Felt Throughout Northern Italy

The earthquake was felt as far a field as Milan, Genoa and Como.  I was told by the resident of a 5th floor apartment in Milan that the ground shook noticeably for around 10 seconds.  Although I too am resident in Milan, I did not feel anything nor did the rest of my family.  Our dog did not wake us either.  Our five apartment is on the first floor of a five floor apartment block which explains why I did not feel the tremor.  Via Twitter another Milan resident said her dogs jumped into bed with her.

Extent of Damage Still being Assessed

The full extent of the earthquake damage is still being assessed but appears to have been considerable.  As mentioned above, aftershocks are still being felt.

News reports are saying that the earthquakes have left 3,000 homeless and caused massive damage to historic buildings.

This video news report from Al Jazeera shows some of the damage the earthquake caused:

YouTube Preview Image

Factory buildings in the Ferrara area collapsed and there are reports of serious structural damage to historic buildings and churches throughout the Italian region of Emilia Romagna.  Around 50 people were slightly injured in the area close to Modena according to the authorities.

One hospital was evacuated as a precautionary measure after the first earthquake struck.

Photographs of the Earthquake Damage

Extensive photographs of the damage done by the earthquake can be seen on the Il Post website here: Earthquake in Emilia – Photographs

Today I’m going to Florence and the train may be delayed as it passes through Bologna on account of earthquake damage – as it happened, I had no problem getting to Florence, but the return train was delayed more than 2 hours.  Many other trains were also affected.  The actual cause of the delays is not clear, although it is probable that the railway operator was checking the structural integrity of bridges and tunnels.

I transmitted earthquake updates via @newsfromitaly on Twitter.

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  1. Margaret says

    Thank you for information.I am traveling to Milano tomorrow.I have friends in Milan and in Mantova,but haven’t heard from them yet.I hope there will be no further fatalities!

  2. Heather torres says

    I have friends who traveled to rome italy. we have not heard from them. Is there damage in rome? and is there a page for people to find loved ones over there?

    • says

      Hi Heather – there is no damage in Rome.

      As for contacting them – I could set up something for that so people can ask about others & those in Italy can leave “don’t worry we’re OK” messages.

      There’s still quite a lot of confusion on the ground – very few people were injured and a small number of people lost their lives. Communications may be problematic for a few days.



  3. Katherine Lugo says

    Dear Alex,

    My friend and I arrive in Venice on Saturday and were planning to take a train from Venice to Florence; can you tell me anything about the current conditions of train travel (especially for that route) in light of today’s earthquake? Also, do you know of Florence has been affected by the earthquakes? Thank you!


    • says

      Hi Katherine,

      Barring any further earthquakes (which, I have to say, seem probable at the moment), you and your friend should be OK. In the event of other tremors, trains may be cancelled or delayed. I would suggest following my @newsfromitaly Twitter account as I will add earthquake updates – if necessary – I’m monitoring the tremor situation quite closely.

      I got caught in the 20th May quake – I was in Venice and the return train was delayed by nearly 2 hours. As a rule, Italy’s high speed trains – the sleek modern looking ones (FrecciaRossa) – tend to be given priority over ‘normal’ trains, although if there are reports of tremors, you might not want to be on any train.

      Florence has not been affected by the earthquakes in any major way that I know of.

      Hope this helps.



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