May 21st, 2012

6.0Mw Earthquake in Northern Italy

Posted at 10:01 AM ET

may-21-italy-earthquake-smallA strong 6.0Mw earthquake hit northern Italy at 02:03 UTC (04:03 local time) on May 20, causing severe shaking in the Emilia Romagna region and surrounding areas. Damage has been reported across Emilia Romagna, particularly to historic buildings, commercial properties and agriculture in towns and cities close to the earthquake’s epicenter. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the epicenter was within 10 kilometers (6 miles) of the towns of Camposanto, San Felice sul Panaro, Finale Emilia and Crevalcore, and it was also centerd a shallow 5.1 kilometers (3.2 miles) underground. Shaking was felt in the nearby city of Bologna and as far away as Milan and Venice, but no major damage was reported here.

The USGS added that around 1.25 million people live in areas impacted by a Modified Mercalli Intensity (MMI) or V or higher (see table below). The four towns of Finale Emilia (population 15,000) San Felice (population 10,000), Medolla (population 5,000) and Camposanto (population 3,000) experienced intensity VII on the MMI scale, equivalent to very strong shaking with the potential to cause moderate damage to resistant buildings and moderate to heavy damage to more vulnerable structures. Around 100 aftershocks have hit the region since the main earthquake, including a 5.2Mw tremor that further damaged already weakened buildings.


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 GC Analytics (SM) representative for assistance or go to for further information.

Yesterday’s event was the most powerful to hit Italy since the 6.3Mw L’Aquilla earthquake of 2009, when around 300 people were killed and 10,000 properties were damaged. The earthquake was also the most powerful to hit the Emilia Romagna region for 700 years, according to officials.

Damage Assessment

Officials say seven people have so far been confirmed dead with another 50 people injured. Gas, electricity and water supplies have been cut off in some communities. Officials are still assessing the damage but it is clear the towns of San Felice and Finale Emilia were badly hit. Reports said around 11,000 people have been displaced, some having seen their homes destroyed and others too afraid to return to their properties. Italian officials say the priority is to find safe accommodation for these people.

Several historic (and unreinforced) buildings in the region also collapsed, with severe damage reported to towers, churches and castles. Reports said San Felice’s three main churches were reduced to rubble and the town’s 15th Century Estense Castle was severely damaged. In the town of Finale Emelia, another medieval castle (Castello delle Rocche) collapsed and a historic tower was badly damaged. Significant damage was also reported in Buonacompra Cento, where a bell tower and a church collapsed, while the roof of a recently renovated 16th Century chapel in San Carlo, near the city of Ferrara, collapsed. According to reports, the damage sustained to Italy’s artistic heritage was the greatest since an earthquake hit the central Umbria region in 1997 and parts of the ceiling of the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi collapsed.

Significant industrial and agricultural damage has also been reported. Emilia Romagna is a renowned cheese region, famed particularly for Parmesan and Grana Padano. Officials have reported that warehouses storing more than 400,000 wheels of Parmesan and Grana Padano collapsed during the earthquake, damaging around EUR250 million (USD320 million) worth of cheese along with machinery and equipment. Factories in Sant’Agostino, Ponte Rodoni di Bondeno and Recompress di Dosso were also reportedly damaged during the earthquake.

Insurance Information

No definitive insured loss estimate has been released for yesterday’s earthquake as of yet. However, according to AIR Worldwide, early indications suggest that insured losses will not be significant given the low residential take-up rates and the relatively rural nature of the epicenter region. AIR added that damage to commercial properties will likely drive insured losses.

Sources: USGS, WSI, Reuters News, Associated News, Agence France Presse, CNN News, BBC News, Insurance Journal

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Guy Carpenter publishes CAT-i reports for major natural catastrophes worldwide. These reports cover catastrophes including worldwide tropical cyclones, earthquakes, major UK and European floods and any other natural event that is likely to incur a significant loss to the (re)insurance industry. Please email if you wish to be added to the free email distribution list.

Guy Carpenter compiles RISK-i reports for major technological or man-made events worldwide. These reports cover risks to property, transport and life including explosions, fires, crashes, engineering disasters and terrorist attacks that are likely to incur a significant loss to the (re)insurance industry. Please email if you wish to be added to the free email distribution list.

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