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In Italy there is no updated map of the areas at greatest risk of earthquakes

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In an article published in the Italian edition of the magazine Nature the science journalist Chiara Sabelli he told because in Italy there is no updated map of the seismic risk, which indicates the areas where earthquakes are most likely to occur. The last map dates back to 2004, that is almost twenty years ago. Meanwhile, technology and knowledge have evolved, and experts believe updating the map is necessary to more effectively predict where earthquakes will occur.

The National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) began work to update it in 2015. Due to rebounds between the INGV and the Civil Protection related to scientific disputes on the assessment of some risk areas and to some considerations on building regulations (which in some areas of the country could have become less stringent), the map has not yet been updated: and it is not clear when this will be possible.

Seismologists often say that it is not earthquakes that kill people, but buildings, when they collapse due to an earthquake they cannot withstand. A country with high seismicity like Italy needs a reliable seismic risk map, which indicates what kind of earthquakes can be expected in each area, to define the anti-seismic building standards. Having better information reduces the risk of tragedies such as the 1980 Irpinia earthquake, which killed nearly 3,000 people; that of L’Aquila in 2009, which caused 309 victims; or the series of earthquakes that hit the Marche, Lazio and Umbria in 2016, with a death toll of 299.

Currently, Italy relies on a seismic map approved in 2004. With the evolution of seismology, the map needs to be updated with the data and knowledge produced in the last two decades, including those relating to the numerous intense earthquakes that hit the ‘Italy ever since. For nearly three years, the approval of an updated map has been postponed several times, because the two institutions involved in the process cannot agree on its final form. The process, which Nature Italy has reconstructed through official documents and interviews with the protagonists, tells a lot about the science of earthquakes, and highlights the tensions that arise when scientific opinions are translated into political decisions.

The story began in 2015, when the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) began working on a new seismic hazard map for Italy, with a working group coordinated by Carlo Meletti, researcher at INGV. , and by Warner Marzocchi, then at the INGV and now a professor at the University of Naples Federico II.

The goal was to develop a new version that would replace the 2004 map, called MPS04, on which the current Italian building regulations are based. The INGV was commissioned by the government to develop that map in 2003, in the aftermath of the magnitude 6 earthquake in San Giuliano di Puglia, in which 27 students and their teacher died.

(Continue reading in Nature)