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| Earth on May 29, 2012

Another strong earthquake in northern Italy on May 29

Northern Italy, which suffered a strong earthquake nine days ago, has had another slightly-less-strong quake. Today’s earthquake magnitude was 5.8.

Northern Italy – which underwent a strong 6.0-earthquake on May 20, 2012 – suffered another strong quake on the morning of May 29. At least one person is dead from today’s 5.8-magnitude quake, which struck at 9 a.m. local time (7 UTC, or 2 a.m. CDT) 40 kilometers north-northwest of the city of Bologna, Italy.

What does a jump in earthquake magnitude really mean?

Here are the details of the May 29 quake according to the U.S. Geological Survey:
Region: NORTHERN ITALY
Geographic coordinates: 44.814N, 11.078E
Magnitude: 5.8 Mw
Depth: 9 km
Universal Time (UTC): 29 May 2012 07:00:03
Time near the Epicenter: 29 May 2012 09:00:03

Location with respect to nearby cities:
40 km (25 miles) NNW (330 degrees) of Bologna, Italy
60 km (37 miles) E (88 degrees) of Parma, Italy
71 km (44 miles) S (175 degrees) of Verona, Italy
149 km (92 miles) NW (313 degrees) of SAN MARINO

Map via USGS

The May 20 earthquake in northern Italy – now being called the 2012 Emilia earthquake – killed eight people and injured about 100 people. According to media reports, the May 20 earthquake caused thousands of people to flee their homes, and 7,000 people are still living in about 89 tent camps erected in fields, sports fields, car parks and schools. The camps can take up to 9,000 people.

Strong earthquake in northern Italy on May 20

Speaking of today’s earthquake, Alberto Silvestri, the mayor of the San Felice sul Panaro told Italian television channel SkyTG24:

There are victims… The situation is very serious. Some people are stuck under the rubble.

The USGS assigned a yellow alert level for for shaking-related fatalities in today’s quake: some casualties are possible. (one reported dead so far).

The USGS assigned an orange alert level for economic losses from today’s quake. In other words, significant damage is likely and the disaster is potentially widespread. Estimated economic losses are less than 1% of GDP of Italy. Past events with this alert level have required a regional or national level response.

This region of Italy is seismically active because two of Earth’s tectonic plates – or great sideways-shifting plates of land – converge here. The African plate is pushing northward with respect to the Eurasian plate along a complex plate boundary in the Mediterranean region, according to USGS.

Bottom line: A strong 5.8-magnitude earthquake struck in northern Italy today, in nearly the same region as a 6.0-magnitude earthquake nine days ago. One person is reported dead so far.