The natural disaster that I chose to cover was the L’Aquila earthquake which struck Italy on April 6, 2009. L’Aquila is the capital of Abruzzo, Italy, which is how the earthquake got its name. I chose to do this case study, because one of my old friends lived in not far from Rome, Italy, and she had explained to me that her town still experiences the aftershocks that resulted from the earthquake. The actual earthquake itself has nothing that seriously stood out. The earthquake hit the city around 3:30 AM with a recorded magnitude of 6.3. The death rate was recorded to be around 290-309 individuals. L’Aquila is set on what is a normal fault that has caused numerous earthquakes in the same region from 1530-1958. The earthquake which struck Italy in February of 1703, caused damage to much of L’Aquila and had a death toll of around 5,000 people. The response to the disaster is very much linked to the past rather than the present recorded prior to the earthquake of 2009 Sometimes, before an earthquake strikes, individuals will see what is referred to as “luminary phenomena.” While it has been the topic of much debate in the past, in the case of the L’Aquila earthquake, these lights are said to have given the people a warning before the earthquake struck the city. Along with this warning sign, it was the research of inventor Another indication of the earthquake that would hit L’Aquila was the predictions that were issued by Giampaolo Giuliani.
Giuliani as a respected member of the L’Aquila community and conducted research in the predictive quality of radon gas levels and earthquakes. Giuliani had first been introduced to the topic of radon gas by the Russians in 1999. According to past research by measuring the amount of radon gas, the Russians had been able to better forecast the earthquake that would hit Tukey later that year. In 2003, Giuliani submitted a proposal to the National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology for project funding to study radon gas emissions as a possible predictor for earthquakes, using one or more radometers that he himself had designed. Although Giuliani could meet with both Bosci and Guido Bertolaso, the head of the government’s interior ministry, both men rejected Giuliani’s request for funding because neither of them believed that Giuliani’s idea had enough scientific evidence to be utilized as a predictor for future earthquakes. The rejections of his request for funding was based on previous faulty data that had not been updated. Many other countries besides Russia had attempted to build their own radometers, none of which were truly successful. Nonetheless, Giuliani persisted and built two of his own radometers in 2006, and as it so happened, his invention would help to predict the earthquake that would hit L’Aquila in December of 2008.
Giuliani noticed a series of small tremors in early December, but they were not strong enough for people to become alarmed. Following the tremors, on March 27, 2009, Giuliani was worried that another quake would strike. Giuliani set up a radometer in the basement of an old school, and warned that a quake would come within the next day. The following morning, a quake was recorded with a magnitude of 2.3. Panic started to vibrate throughout Italy when Giuliani predicted a quake of a higher magnitude headed toward the city of Sulmona, which was only 50km from L’Aquila. Finally, Giuliani’s warning was taken seriously and the minister was warned which caused panic throughout the city, and officials placed a gag injunction on Giuliani on March 30, which prevented Giuliani from trying to warn the public of upcoming disasters until the injunction was lifted. The next day, following Giuliani’s predictions, an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.2 hit L’Aquila. If that’s not the biggest, “I told you so,” I don’t know what is. Although Giuliani had given evidence that would prove L’Aquila was set up for disaster, the panic of the public caused Giuliani to be dismissed by the Italian government. This gave people a false sense of security. Because the Italian government did not seriously take Giuliani’s warnings- even banned, the people did not have the right information to prepare for the earthquake. After the struggles that Giuliani faced, there was also some ethical issues that came into light. Following the recovery from earthquake, six scientists who were involved in warning the public, were sentenced to jail on counts of manslaughter. Stefano Gresta, president of Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Rome, stated that the verdicts were so harsh because the men tried to downplay the severity of the impending earthquake. Furthermore, it was stated that two of the men involved, only tried to calm the public, not present the facts on the prediction of the event.
The mortality in the L’Aquila earthquake is slightly complicated. The time has a lot to do with this, as I have mentioned, the earthquake hit L’Aquila around 3:30 AM, this meant that most people were still sleeping. There is a good and bad side to this. On the one hand, because people were sleeping, it meant that falling objects could not hit them, nor would masses of people be injured at the same time. However, because the earthquake did happen at such an early hour, this meant that individuals had a much slower reaction time which did result in more harm. twice as many women died than men in the L’Aquila earthquake. Another contributing factor to mortality in the L’Aquila earthquake was the location of those who lived in the city of L’Aquila. Many of those who died or were injured in earthqake got hurt because debris from falling buildings fell on them. L’Aquila is only about an hour away from Rome and this allowed for response to be carried out quickly. Response from Italian officials was also issued quickly because the main hospital in L’Aquila had been gravely damaged during the earthquake. Coppito, located just outside of the city was the country’s training place for the police in the city. This meant that aid could be given to the city right away because of the ready police force. Furthermore, the police compound provided some resident units which meant that those who had lost their homes in the earthquake had a place to stay. Volunteer organizations, such as the Italian Red Cross, and the armed forces also set up base there, which took over as the main care facility in which emergencies were handled in the following months. Evacuation quickly followed the disaster, including the entire historic center of L’Aquila. Over 171 tent camps were created and overseen by the Italian military.
According to an article that was published by the BBC, the EU gave L’Aquila sixty-six million dollars in aid, however, recent findings have discovered that this money was misused. Soren Bo Sondergaad, a reporter for the European Parliament, found evidence which suggested that the money that was given by the EU, was handed to various individuals who had been proven to have taken part in organized crime. Sondergaad also suggested that what reconstruction had been done to the city was unsafe. Along with working to help those who lost their homes because of the earthquake, it is also important to discuss the recovery of the city. It was found that much of the repairs that were done throughout L’Aquila were solely funded through the Italian government Much of the money put into fixing the structures went towards bricks because most of the buildings in L’Aquila are old. Although much of the city was asked to evacuate as a part of earthquake management, the people of L’Aquila state that much of their city remains in ruins more than five years after the earthquake. Today, there are still 632 buildings that are reported to have been destroyed because of the earthquake. The President has stated that his mind is set on fully repairing the town; however, money is a large obstacle. Since March, it has been reported that the government has spent an estimated 4.4 billion on repairs.