Online Geography Resources


MEDC Earthquake Case Study - L'Aquila, Italy, 2009

IB DP Geography
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Geography Starter



Early Reports ...

An aerial view of the destruction in the city of L'Aquila, central Italy, Monday, April 6, 2009.
Geography Activities

Activities - Constructing a Case Study

Geography Activities

Where did it happen?

  • A written description of the location.
  • A map of the location including points of geographical interest.
  • Can you produce a sketch map of the location?
Map of Italy
USGS ShakeMap
Geography Activities

When did it happen?

  • Date.
  • Time (local).
  • Duration.
  • Include the sequence of events to show the speed of onset and the pace of management and recovery.
Geography Activities

Why did it happen?

  • The physical conditions that caused the hazard
  • If the hazard is tectonic - what is it's tectonic setting?
  • If the hazard is metrological - what metrological conditions caused the hazard?
The Eurasian and African plates meet along a line which runs through North Africa and crosses the Mediterranean near southern Italy and Greece.

As a result two main cracks - or fault lines - cut across the Italian peninsula, one running north-south along the spine of the Apennine mountains and another crossing east-west south of Rome and north of Naples.

L'Aquila sits in a valley in the central Apennines north of Rome and is built on a basin of sediments which has attracted geological interest in the past.

It was hit by earthquakes repeatedly in its history including one in 1703 which flattened the centre.


Italy Tectonic Map
Geography Activities

Who was affected by it happening?

  • What were the effects/consequences of the hazard event?
  • Categorize the effects/consequences as being:
      • Economic
      • Social
      • Environmental
      • Political

The earthquake caused damage to between 3,000 and 11,000 buildings in the medieval city of L'Aquila. Several buildings also collapsed. 308 people were killed by the earthquake and approximately 1,500 people were injured. Twenty of the victims were children. Around 65,000 people were made homeless.

Most of the inhabitants of L'Aquila abandoned their homes and the city itself; in the city centre of L'Aquila, and the nearby village of Paganica which was also badly damaged, many streets were impassable due to fallen masonry. The hospital at L'Aquila, where many of the victims were brought, suffered damage in the 4.8 aftershock which followed the main earthquake an hour later. Powerful aftershocks, some only slightly weaker than the main shock, were felt throughout the following 2 days.

Villages in the valley along Strada Statale 17 just outside l'Aquila suffered the greatest damage while medieval mountain hill towns lying high above the valley suffered little damage. Onna was reported to be mostly leveled with 38 deaths among the 350 residents.

Many of L'Aquila's medieval buildings were damaged. The apse of the Basilica of Saint Bernardino of Siena, L'Aquila's largest Renaissance church, was seriously damaged, and its campanile collapsed.

While most of l'Aquila's medieval structures suffered damage, many of its modern buildings suffered the greatest damage, for instance, a dormitory at the university of l'Aquila collapsed. Even some buildings that were believed to be "earthquake-proof" were damaged. L'Aquila Hospital's new wing, which opened in 2000 and was thought capable of resisting almost any earthquake suffered extensive damage and had to be closed.

Around 40,000 people who were made homeless by the earthquake found accommodation in tented camps and a further 10,000 were housed in hotels on the coast.

Adapted from Source

Geographical Visualisation

GIS > Geographical Visualisation - Spatial Extent

Google released post-earthquake satellite imagery (taken April 6th) of the region
Google Earth Placemark   Google released post-earthquake satellite imagery (taken April 6th) of the region [Source]
Geography Activities

What happened?

  • Describe the management of the hazard event - before, during and after?
  • Planning, preparation, prediction, hazard mapping, evacuation, warnings.
  • Help with recovery, aid - local, regional and international, role of NGOs.
  • Finally - produce a one paragraph summary of the hazard event.

National aid:

Many Italian companies have offered some sort of help. All Italian mobile companies sent free minutes and credit to all their pre-paid customers in Abruzzo, suspended billing to all post-paid customers and extended their coverage with additional mobile base stations to cover homeless camps. In addition, some companies sent free mobile phones, SIM Cards and chargers for those who lost their mobiles, and set up a national unique number to send donations to, by placing a call or sending an SMS. Poste Italiane sent to homeless camps some mobile units acting as Postal Office, to allow people to withdraw money from their accounts as well as their retirement. Many companies, such as pay-tv SKY Italia, suspended billing to all customers in Abruzzo, and offered some decoders to homeless camps to allow them to follow the funerals and the news. Ferrovie dello Stato offered railway sleeping carriages to host some homeless people, and offered free tickets to all people and students living in Abruzzo. AISCAT (Associazione Italiana Società Concessionarie Autostrade e Trafori) declared that all toll-roads in Abruzzo would be free of charge. All tax billing for all Abruzzo residents has been suspended by the government, as well as mortgage payments.

International aid

Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi refused foreign aid for the emergency, saying that Italians were "proud people" and had sufficient resources to deal with the crisis. However he singled out the United States, announcing that he would accept aid for reconstruction: "If the United States wants to give a tangible sign of its solidarity with Italy, it could take on the responsibility of rebuilding heritage sites and churches. We would be very happy to have this support." and suggested the USA help rebuild "a small district of a town or a suburb".

Adapted from Source

Geography Review

Something to think about ... community preparedness

Scientific American: Did a Technician Accurately Forecast the L'Aquila Earthquake--Or Was It a Lucky Guess?
Geography Review

Review and Homework Task

Prepare a second case study - with the same structure as this one - for an recent earthquake hazard in a less developed country. on facebook
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