UPDATE: The death toll in Italy’s earthquake is at least 207.
A strong earthquake struck central Italy, injuring more than 1,500 and leaving tens of thousands homeless. It was Italy’s worst earthquake in decades.
Hardest hit was the town of L’Aquila, 60 miles northeast of Rome and not far from the epicenter.
Blogger “Will” in Rome describes the earthquake:
The building was making that groaning noise a building makes when its under stress. The bed was shaking, a cupboard door swung open and the inside light came on. The pipes were knocking together and the crystals on the chandelier in the living room making that tinkling sound that at 3:30 in the morning looses all sweetness and becomes just ominous. It was an earthquake. It went on for over a minute but seem longer; the repeat 45 minutes later was less intense and shorter. Maybe an hour later there was one more prolonged shudder.
[…]This morning was upsetting and it was hard to get back to sleep but for us that is really all that was disturbed: our sleep. For many others in the region around L’Aquila this morning more than their sleep has been disturbed – their homes have been destroyed or worse their loved ones lay in morgues or beneath rubble.
Blogger Patrick Hayden at “Making Light” writes that Italy’s buildings are no match for earthquakes:
We knew pretty immediately that it had been an earthquake, which is kind of an alarming thing when you’re in a city built entirely out of bricks, stone, and concrete.
[…]We were just in the countryside of central Italy the day before yesterday—not near l’Aquila, but more to the north-northeast, in the Sabine Hills—and while it’s easy to say that all of those ancient stone buildings have survived a lot of shaking, not every structure is ancient or, for that matter, well-built.
Other bloggers have expressed anger at the government over its response to warning signs prior to the quake. An Italian seismologist who had earlier predicted a major earthquake around L’Aquila, Giacchino Giuliani, was reported to the police for “spreading alarm.”
Blogger “John Brownlee” blames bureaucracy for hindering response to national disasters:
A recent earthquake in Italy illustrates the problem bureaucracy can have in reacting to scientific predictions of natural disasters. […] After a major earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale killed dozens of people in the area, the Mayor is looking none too good for his decision to prosecute Giuliani. But the situation is not so clear cut, as the head of Italy’s National Geophysics Institute made perfectly clear in a statement.
“Every time there is an earthquake there are people who claim to have predicted it,” he said. “As far as I know nobody predicted this earthquake with precision. It is not possible to predict earthquakes.”
It seems, then, that Giuliani’s prediction might have been more lucky soothsaying than science. But without a clear process for politicians to assess the real-world dangers of scientific predictions of disaster and to quickly act upon them, technology will be powerless to save lives.
Watch a video (Italian) of Giuliani making his prediction: