Strong earthquake in northern Italy on May 20

It was one of the strongest quakes to shake the region, seismologists said. Older buildings suffered damage: collapsed roofs, cracks in buildings. At least four reported dead.

Earthquake Italy May 20, 2012

What seismologists say is “one of the strongest earthquakes to shake northern Italy” shook the region around Bologna early Sunday. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is now reporting it as a magnitude-6.0 temblor. It took place at 2:03 UTC, or 4:30 a.m. at the epicenter. Various media outlets are reporting that it killed at least four people, toppled buildings and sent residents running into the streets. At least one strong aftershock (5.1-magnitude) and one smaller aftershock has occurred since then.

Castello Estense, a medieval tower in northern Italy, suffered damaged in the May 20, 2012 earthquake that shook the region.

Initial reports say that the dead included a worker at a factory in Ferrara. Several churches in towns around the epicenter are reported to have suffered damage. A tower of Castello Estense, a moated medieval structure in the center of Ferrara (see image above), was damaged in the earthquake.

The earthquake struck about 36 kilometers (22 miles) north of the city of Bologna, Italy. Image Credit: USGS

Details of the quake from the USGS are as follows:

Date Sunday, May 20, 2012 at 02:03:52 UTC
Sunday, May 20, 2012 at 04:03:52 AM at epicenter
Location 44.800°N, 11.192°E
Depth 5.1 km (3.2 miles)
36 km (22 miles) NNW of Bologna, Italy
69 km (42 miles) E of Parma, Italy
72 km (44 miles) SSE of Verona, Italy
339 km (210 miles) NNW of ROME, Italy

AP reported that initial television footage showed older buildings with roofs collapsed, church towers with cracks and the bricks of some stone walls that had tumbled into the street. As dawn broke over the region earlier today, residents milled about the streets inspecting the damage.

Today’s sunrise over Italy. The earthquake took place in darkness at 4:03 a.m. local time in Italy, about an hour and a half before this picture was taken. Photo by EarthSky Facebook friend Statuti Claudio, who lives in central Italy. He says he did not feel the quake.

Bottom line: A strong 6.0-magnitude earthquake shook northern Italy early this morning. At least four deaths have been reported so far. The earthquake created cracks in buildings and stone walls. Seismologists say it was one of the strongest earthquakes to strike this region.

Deborah Byrd