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.
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.
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.
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 created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.