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main index © Jeff Matthews entry Nov. 2002
There was a
sharp earthquake near the city of Campobasso
yesterday. Naples is close enough for such a tremor to
be felt. I didn't feel it, but I was out walking
around in the city, where the normal rumblings of
passing traffic might make it difficult to tell.
Others, however, tell me they felt the quake quite
perceptibly —or, at least, "saw" it in the form of
chandeliers moving slightly. Those working high up in
the skyscrapers of the new Civic Center on the eastern
side of the city really noticed it, however. Offices
and schools were evacuated successfully.
Italians are more used to the Mercalli scale for
measuring quakes. Unlike the Richter scale and recent
Moment Magnitude scale, which measure the magnitude of
an earthquake in terms of actual amount of energy
released, the Mercalli scale is a description of
perceived effect on the environment. The quake
yesterday measured 5.4 on the Richter scale and 8 on
the Mercalli scale, some of the parameters of which
The only time I have ever truly and solidly felt a quake here was the big one in 1980. There was no doubt about that one. The entire building I was in swayed for many seconds as the intensity built and then gradually faded. The panic in the neighborhood was almost total. The epicenter was many miles away from Naples and there the damage and loss of life was considerable. In the city of Naples, itself, there was little severe damage. Some people were hurt in the panic by, for example, falling as they tried to run downstairs to get out of buildings. My mother-in-law was in a lift and got the scare of her life as the lift shook and banged against the sides of the shaft.
So, people around here are getting a little jumpy. What with Etna erupting for the last few days a few hundred miles to the south on Sicily—and, then, a sharp quake there during the eruption—people around here just stare over at Vesuvius and wonder and wait. They had a practice evacuation about a year ago in the area that would be immediately affected by an eruption of Vesuvius. It went very well: about 500 volunteer subjects were evacuated along designated escape routes. No problems. The difference between such a drill, however, and the real thing cannot be overstated. The area near Mt. Vesuvius is the most populated area in Europe. It is difficult to imagine hundreds of thousands of inhabitants calmly moving along assigned routes to safety.
(Later: 4. 14 p.m.) Even as I
write, there has just been another quake. I felt this
one since I am sitting in my flat on the 4th floor.
The vibrations come up strongly through the building
and the height accentuates the sway. The chandeliers
danced around very nervously, as well. The television
broke in with a bulletin that the epicenter is about
in the same place as the one yesterday, meaning the
same long-suffering villagers are getting hammered
again. There are no immediate reports as to
victims, but the television now reports that,
grotesquely, the quake struck during a memorial
service for the children who died in yesterday's
(There is a separate entry about the
geology of the Bay of Naples. Click here.