April 10th, 2009

CAT-i Update: Earthquake in Central Italy

Posted at 1:00 AM ET

Date: April 6, 2009
Time: 01:32:42 UTC (03:32:42 local time)
Position: 42.423N, 13.394W
Depth: 10 km (6 miles)
Magnitude: 6.3 Mw
Region: Abruzzo, Central Italy


A powerful earthquake struck central Italy at 01:32 UTC (03:32 local time) on April 6, 2009, destroying thousands of buildings in mountain towns and claiming at least 207 lives in the country’s deadliest earthquake in nearly 30 years. According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), the earthquake measured 6.3 Mw. Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) reported a local magnitude of 5.8 which, according to INVG, equates to 6.2 Mw. The USGS said the earthquake was located 7 km (4 miles) from the ancient city of L’Aquila in the mountainous Abruzzo region and was centered about 10 km (6 miles) underground. The USGS added that more than 1.9 million people live in areas impacted by a Modified Mercalli Intensity (MMI) of V or higher (see Table 1 below). The earthquake happened hours after a 4.6 magnitude tremor shook the area but caused no reported damage.

Estimated MMI Estimated Population Exposure Perceived Shaking
VII 69,000 Very Strong
VI 52,000 Strong
V 1,852,000 Moderate

According to reports, insured losses from the earthquake are expected to total several hundred million euros, with the cost to the insurance industry limited by the low take-up of residential cover in the region. Sources quoted by Insurance Day said insured losses from the earthquake are likely to be in the several hundred million euros but are unlikely to exceed EUR1 billion (USD1.3 billion) as earthquake take-up rates for residential properties in the region are relatively low. Therefore, damage to commercial properties are likely to account for much of the insured losses as the take-up rate is around 40 percent in comparison to between 5 percent and 10 percent for residential properties, according to Insurance Day.

Officials said that up to 15,000 buildings have been damaged or destroyed by the earthquake and that as many as 17,000 people are feared to have been left homeless after a large number of residential buildings were damaged. Altogether, 26 cities and towns have been damaged following the 30-second earthquake, officials said. L’Aquila, the capital of the Abruzzo region, has a population of around 70,000 people and was subject to shaking measured at VII intensity on the MMI scale. Although Italy has improved its building codes in recent years (with changes implemented in 1975, 1985 and 2003), many of the buildings affected by the earthquake are believed to be historic masonry structures and have suffered badly.


Hazard data illustrated in the CAT-i map was taken from i-aXs®, Guy Carpenter’s web-based risk management platform. i-aXs users can view impacted areas on any map as well as see how their portfolios were affected. Please contact your broker or Instrat® representative for assistance or go to www.i-axs.info for further information.

Reference points to earthquake location:
68 km (42 miles) W (268 degrees) of Pescara, Italy
95 km (59 miles) NE (51 degrees) of Rome, Italy
113 km (70 miles) SE (133 degrees) of Perugia, Italy

Latest reports say that 207 people have been confirmed dead. About 1,500 people have been injured (100 critically) and authorities said 15 more are still missing as rescuers continue to search for survivors trapped beneath rubble. Firefighters said they have pulled 100 people alive from the debris. Phone and power lines remain down, and some bridges and roads have been closed as a precaution as the region continues to be hit by a series of aftershocks.

In L’Aquila, up to 10,000 buildings (around 66 percent) are thought to have been damaged or destroyed, making parts of the city uninhabitable for some time. One of the collapsed buildings is a university student dormitory. The earthquake also took a severe toll on L’Aquila’s architectural heritage. Many Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance landmarks were damaged, including the collapse of a church dome and structural damage to the city’s cathedral. Sources said that parts of L’Aquila’s main hospital were evacuated due to risk of collapse and many of the wounded are being treated in the open air. Officials said that stadiums and sporting fields in the area were being prepared to house those left homeless.

Reports said the earthquake’s destruction extended 30 km (20 miles) in all directions from the epicentre. The villages of Villa Sant’Angelo and Borgo di Castelnuovo were practically wiped out while the town of Castelnuovo is also reported to be badly damaged, according to officials. Elsewhere, the village of Onna was nearly levelled, with 40 people from a population of 300 dead, rescue officials said. Other towns that have sustained damage from the earthquake include Poggio Picenze, Tormintarte, Totani, Roio Poggio, Massa, Paganica and Fossa, according to officials. The quake was also felt in Rome, Italy’s capital. However, according to Reuters News, no damage was reported to electricity infrastructure or the closest oil refineries.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has declared a state of emergency, making state funds available to deal with the disaster. The prime minister also cancelled a trip to Moscow to travel to the quake zone. Interior Minister Robert Maroni said EUR130 million (USD175 million) in emergency funds have been made available and several other countries, including France, Germany, Greece, Israel, and Russia, have reportedly offered aid in the wake of the disaster.

Italy lies on two fault lines and has been hit by powerful earthquakes in the past. The earthquake on April 6, 2009 was Italy’s deadliest since November 1980, when a 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit southern regions, flattening villages and causing some 2,735 deaths. The last major earthquake to hit central Italy occurred in 2002, when 30 people died. In 1997, 13 people died and much cultural heritage was lost when an earthquake hit the central region of Umbria.

Sources: USGS, Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, BBC News, CNN News, Reuters News, Xinhua News Agency, RIA Novosti, Insurance Day

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