Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Western Sicily Earthquake of 1968

January 14, 1968– An earthquake in Sicily kills 231 and injures 262.

Summary of the 1968 Disaster in Sicily

The Sicilian earthquakes of 1968 were relatively modest for disaster-inducing earthquakes, the magnitudes ranging from 4.1 to 5.4. There were many of them, however, at least seventeen separate occurrences in this range of magnitude being recorded in twenty-three days. Perhaps it was the number of occurrences in arelatively short length of time, as much as their magnitude, that resulted in the great human disaster. Rescue workers came in rather quickly after the first few earthquakes (the afternoo and evening of  January 14 and the early morning of January 15), but they were frequently caught in the further collapse of the buildings brought on by later quakes. Furthermore, the repetition of the earthquake at relatively short intervals of time had a strong psychological effect on the inhabitants akin to repeated physical torture. No sooner had the people partially forgotten their fears after one earthquakes then another occured. The effect was terrifying to a great many persons. There is good evidence to indicate that this was so even in the city of Palermo which is located a considerable distance from the center of the activity.

At least four other factors also contributed to the disaster. One was the unussually severe winter weather and the lack of safe shelter; another was the superstition, poverty and low level of education found among the villagers of interior Sicily; a third was the frequent lack of effective town government and adequate services even in the best of times, and fourth was the lack of advance planning.

Source: : The Western Sicily Earthquake of 1968 by J. Eugene Hass, Proffesor of Sociology and Robert S. Ayre, proffesor and chairman of civil Engineering of the University of Colorado.

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