Just after 2.30 pm local time the northern Italian town of Turin was rocked by a small earthquake. No casualties are reported, but some there was some damage to houses and other buildings, phone lines were briefly cut and train services around the city were suspended while engineers ascertained that the tracks were safe.
Map showing the location of the quake, from the United States Geological Survey.
The epicenter of the quake (point on the ground directly above the centre of the quake) appears to have been about 22 km northwest of the city, with the quake occurring at a depth of between 5 and 25 km. The quake lasted about 20 seconds, and had a magnitude of between 4.3 and 4.8 on the Richter Scale; not really severe, but quite alarming. The quake was felt across a wide area of Piedmont (the north-easternmost province of Italy, of which Turin is the capital) and south-western France.
Italy is among the most earthquake-prone countries in Europe, though the Piedmont area is not particularly noted in this respect. The country has a complex geology. Part of the country is located on the European Plate, and part on the Apulian (or Adriatic) Plate; a micro-plate that broke away from northern Africa during the Cretaceous, and is now sandwiched between the African and European Plates, being pushed further into Europe by the northward movement of Africa. The borders of the Apulian Plate form the Apennine Mountains of central Italy, the Southern Alps and the Dinaric Alps (on the Balkan Peninsula).
The Apulian Plate, sandwiched between Africa and Europe.
This has given Italy a history of Earthquakes that dates back to classical times, with some major quakes taking place in the north. Until the late twentieth century these often lead to major loss of life and widespread destruction, as few buildings were earthquake-proofed and there was little infra-structure to deal with the aftermath of natural disasters.
In 1976 a magnitude 6.4 earthquake hit the Friuli region on the Slovenian border, killing 989 people, injuring 2400 and making 157 000 homeless. This lead to the creation of the Dipartimento della Protezione Civile, the Italian agency responsible for predicting, preventing, mediating and clearing up after major disasters. (This was also the only major earthquake that I have ever been involved in, at the age of seven).
Italian language documentary about the 1976 Friuli Earthquake.