Consecutive earthquakes felt in Italy, no deaths reported

In Rome, children were sent home from school at mid morning, public buildings were evacuated and authorities shut down the subway system.

Italy has always been accustomed to dealing with earthquakes and the Amatrice disaster led to questions as to why so many buildings had not been upgraded to ensure they could resist tremors.

A second, with a magnitude of 5.7 hit the same area around 50 minutes later, and 10 minutes later a third was measured at a magnitude of 5.3. The four quakes caused buildings to collapse but miraculously resulted in a relativelly small number of deaths or injuries. The tower of one of Amatrice's churches toppled in Wednesday's earthquakes.

Centuries-old papal palaces in Rome - showpieces of the mastery of Renaissance architects - swayed during the tremors.

Schools that were not already closed in the worst-hit areas were evacuated. The tremors nearly brought back the fear and threat to the hilly terrain which had witnessed a massive quake previous year during the same time.

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The first quake, measuring 5.3, struck the beleaguered city of Amatrice at 10:25am local time, and the shock waves could be felt in contiguous regions and all the way south in Rome.

"Wednesday's quakes could have come as one single event of magnitude 6 or higher, " Valensise said, adding, "the earth's crust has for some reason made a decision to break up in smaller pieces". The area has been hit with heavy snowfall. "When that happens, you get a new series of earthquakes", Spagna said. What can I say?

According to the Accumoli Mayor, Stefano Petrucci, "The roads are unpassable because of the snow and we have hardly any trucks available to clear them, some of them are broken down". A deadly quake in August killed almost 300, while no one died in the strong aftershocks in October largely because population centers had already been evacuated.

Italy straddles Eurasian and African tectonic plates, making it vulnerable to quakes.

  • Sonia Alvarado