KitoOnlus Blog

Emergencies in Italy: disproportionate damages and the importance of prevention

We frequently talk about natural disasters affecting the Philippines, among which there are typhoons, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. But Italy too is often subject to emergencies caused by natural events. Like the earthquake of magnitude 6.0 on the Richter Scale that devastated Central Italy on 24 August 2016. The seismic activity hasn’t ceased yet and there have been registered other 5000 minor shakes since then.

Data about the seismic activity in Italy can be traced back to 2500 years ago and it has been calculated that the peninsula is affected by disastrous earthquakes at least once every five years. According to Civil Protection Department’s data, Italy is one of the countries in the Mediterranean with the highest seismic risk, due to its geographic position, between the African and the Eurasian plates, and because it is a geologically young territory frequently subjected to aftershocks.

But it’s not only about earthquakes, Italy is also affected by other natural calamities: the volcanic risk, less frequent and less devastating than the seismic one, is dangerous especially for the most inhabited areas and hydrogeological phenomena, such ad landslides (over 200 events in 2015) and floods (12.218 km² of the territory are at high risk), are diffused all over the Italian territory (see the Hydrogeological Report 2015 by ISPRA). Italy is also exposed to tsunami and fire risks; fires are in fact responsible for the loss of 12% of the domestic forestry heritage.

Some of these natural events cannot be foreseen, but all of them are influenced, in a positive or negative way, by human activities; that is why prevention is so important. Sadly, Italy is actually criticised, even abroad, for the lack of the right preparation and response to emergencies. Damages are usually disproportionate in respect with the magnitude of the event that causes them.

This article underlines the major critiques raised in relation to the earthquake of August 24: there was no national plan for seismic prevention, construction’s norms are too permissive, buildings are too old and unsafe. Geologist Mario Tozzi recently stated that an earthquake of magnitude 6 should not provoke so many ruins and victims in an advanced country; such an earthquake would only cause fear in Japan or California, nothing else. Indeed, developing countries too could be taken as an example for the attention they pay to prevention and risk management. An example is offered by the Philippines and their Nationals Earthquakes Drills, earthquakes’ simulations organized by the government at the national level (read our article here). These are essential in preparing the population to face an event that, even if unpredictable, it destined to happen, sooner or later. We can keep looking at the Philippines even for emergencies’ response. The country is indeed witness of the useful role played by mobile units for emergencies: the Kito HUT, energetically sustainable thanks to photovoltaic panels located on the roof and ready for use, with no need of specialized workers in charge to assemble it, demonstrated its importance in post-emergency scenarios.

Every territory is different but this does not mean that Italy shouldn’t think about making use of remedies that proved to be extremely valuable in similar contexts.

Amatrice, 24 agosto 2016 (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)