3 megatons strike in central Italy April 6, 2009Posted by dorigo in news, science.
A destructive earthquake has struck last night in central Italy, at 3.32AM in a mountainous region of the Appennini, close to the city of L’Aquila. The magnitude of the earthquake has been estimated at 6.3 on the Richter scale, for a release of energy equal to about 3 megatons of TNT (not 16 as I previously reported, which corresponds to 6.7 degrees in the Richter scale).
Many small towns close to the epicenter report more than half of the houses grounded. The biggest worries come from L’Aquila, which counts about 70,000 inhabitants; but many smaller towns scattered around in the mountainous region of the Abruzzi have certainly suffered major damage. There are reports of tens of dead bodies already extracted from the rubble. I will have updates here as soon as I gather more information.
UPDATE: while dead bodies continue to be drawn out from collapsed buildings, a disturbing detail emerges. It transpires that a researcher at the Gran Sasso national laboratories had predicted the event, and had warned that a disastrous seismic event would occur. Giampaolo Giuliani had recorded a large release of radon gas from the ground on March 29th, and had concluded that an earthquake would probably take place in the matter of hours. Giuliani had predicted the event would happen a week before it actually did, and on March 31st the head of civil protection Guido Bertolaso had bitterly criticized the prediction and “quegli imbecilli che si divertono a diffondere notizie false” (those imbeciles that enjoy diffusing false news). Giuliani is facing charges of causing a false alarm, but he was right after all.
UPDATE: here are a few excerpts from an interview given by Giampaolo Giuliani this morning:
“Se commento adesso c’e’ il rischio che a me domani mi mettono in galera. Allora, non e’ vero, e’ falso, che i terremoti non possono essere previsti. Sono quasi dieci anni che noi riusciamo a prevedere eventi nel raggio d’azione di 120-150 chilometri dai nostri rivelatori.”
“Sono tre giorni che vedevamo un forte incremento di Radon. I forti incrementi di Radon, al di fuori delle soglie di sicurezza, significano forti terremoti.”
“Anche la tecnologia classica avrebbe potuto prevederlo. Se qualcuno fosse stato a lavorare, ai posti dovuti, o se qualcuno si fosse preoccupato.”
“Questa notte anche la sala sismica si sarebbe potuto accorgere che sarebbe avvenuta una forte scossa. Il mio sismografo indicava una forte scossa di terremoto e ce l’avevamo online, tutti potevano osservarlo, e tanti lo hanno osservato e si sono resi conto che le scosse crescevano.”
(“If I comment now there is the risk that tomorrow I get imprisoned. Now: it is not true, it is false, that earthquakes cannot be predicted. We have been able to predict events for almost ten years in a range of 120-150 kilometers from our detectors.”
“In the last three days we saw a large increase of Radon. Large increases of Radon, above safety thresholds, mean strong earthquakes.”
“Even classic technology could have been used to predict it. If somebody had been working, at their place, or if somebody had gotten worried.”
“Tonight even the seismic room could have realized that a strong shake was going to happen. My seismograph indicated a strong earthquake and we had it online, everybody could watch it, and many did and realized that the tremors were increasing.”)
UPDATE: Michelangelo Ambrosio, a director of research of the INFN (national institute for nuclear physics) section in Napoli, thus defends the claims of Giuliani:
“trascurare con superficialita’ le applicazioni di nuove tecnologie solo perche’ proposte da ricercatori non appartenenti allo establishment preposto a tale funzione e’ una negligenza criminale di cui oggi paghiamo le conseguenze.”
(“Disregarding with superficiality the applications of new technologies only for the reason they are brought forward by researchers not belonging to the establishment addressing those functions is a criminal neglect of which today we all pay the consequences”.)