Friday, 1 June 2012


Image courtesy of the
U.S. Geological Survey
Apparently all it takes to stop me blogging about #twitterangelus is a 5.8 earthquake.

It makes sense for me to blog about it, but to be honest, I'm probably not the best person to fill you in on what's happening. As a sojourner in a strange land who also has a 1.5 year-old daughter to worry about, living at a bit of a distance from any kind of family, many of life's little details, including important ones, pass me by: I shall do my best.

So, at the beginning of the year, when there was still a world of snow about, there were some earthquakes here, and now we have a repeat performance. The epicentre was in the same province as us, about 25 miles away. What we experienced was nothing like what's going on at San Felice, but it is too close for comfort. San Felice is in the north whereas we're in the south just before the plain turns into mountains. Immediately to the north of us is the city of Modena, where most of my colleagues work; no damage there that I'm aware of, but they're feeling enough tremors to keep their nerves on edge.

We were just settling down to work in my office when it arrived; oddly I didn't feel anything myself, but I took my cue from my colleagues who were hastening out of the door. I didn't feel anything the second time either. I haven't felt anything for a while now, but there was night when there seemed to be a little quake every 5 minutes; then again, it's hard to tell how much earthquake you're inventing out of nervousness.

All this seismic activity has caught the region on a back foot; the last big event was a medieval one, and though Italy as a country is very much prone to earthquakes, the Emilia-Romagna was considered low-risk until now. A lot of seismologists have been interviewed recently, for obvious reasons, but the best news you will ever hear from an Italian seismologist is "We can't rule out the possibility of further quakes"; unfortunately, that's the peninsula you're dealing with. What's worse is that the quakes at the beginning of the year and these ones don't seem to have the same cause. The earth is busy adjusting itself underneath us, and there's not really any way of telling how it will pan out; the best case scenario is a series of little quakes (many earthquakes aren't even felt) which discharge the latent energy that needs discharging. The fear is that we have another more dramatic event. The region will undoubtedly receive a new risk rating and consequently building requirements; not a lot of help in the short term unfortunately. Monica's Dad however (who does know something about these things; he's been coordinating volunteers from the Province of Ancona from our bedroom - her parents happened to be visiting)

Anyway, here in Sassuolo, we're fine but nervous. Schools have been closed, and our church, San Giorgio, seems to have developed some cracks. You will have seen the something about the worst hit areas elsewhere; besides which, I'm struggling to keep up with events. What I do know is that some are some real bastards about. People, not without reason, don't want to leave their homes, for fear of thieves. Some especially foul people have been impersonating the Protezione Civile (a voluntary emergency relief force, among other things) and telling people to evacuate their homes because of an imminent quake (impossible to predict, btw), specifically so that they can steal from them. Monica's Dad is pretty scandalised by how they're responding here. He read about one village where the parish priest was organising the relief, but it's absurd that the Protezione Civile could allow such a situation to be necessary (he was among the first group of volunteers to arrive, but coming from le Marche, the next region down).

Monica's pretty nervous, especially about the idea of being at home alone with Noemi when her parents leave, so her Mum is prolonging her stay, and we'll be going down to Offagna for a week (I'll be working remotely).

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