Major Italian Earthquakes of the 20th Century

Italy has a long history of earthquakes, dating back to the major event of 1627 which devastated the central region of Gargano. The combination of active European and African tectonic plates, well–defined fault lines, and geological movements zig–zagging the same area have established Italy's reputation as one of the most earthquake–prone regions in the world.¹

The largest Italian earthquakes tend to align along the crest of the central and southern Apennines. There is an alignment running from Genoa in the north to Messina in the south that has been responsible for major earthquakes, and which will be the concentration of all major tremors — sooner or later.²

Table of Contents

Italian Earthquakes Since 1900 With 1,000 or More Deaths
Date: Sep 8 1905 City: Calabria Deaths: 557 Magnitude: 7.9
Authoritative Italian sources list the death toll as 557. Over 14,000 houses damaged throughout Calabria. Some damage on Lipari Island and in parts of Messina Province. Felt strongly throughout southern Italy and eastern Sicily. Previously listed with 2500 deaths.
Date: Dec 28 1908 City: Messina Deaths: 72,000 Magnitude: 7.2
Over 40% of the population of Messina and more than 25% of Reggio di Calabria killed by the earthquake and tsunami, as well as by fires in some parts of Messina. Casualty toll is based on census data 1901-1911, some estimates are as high as 110,000. Severe damage in large parts of Calabria and Sicily. Felt throughout Sicily and north to Naples and Campobasso. Also felt on Malta, in Montenegro and Albania and on the Ionian Islands. Tsunami heights of 6-12 m (20-39 ft) observed on the coast of Sicily south of Messina and heights of 6-10 m (20-33 ft) observed along the coast of Calabria. Aftershocks continued into 1913.
Date: Jan 13 1915 City: Avezzano Deaths: 32,610 Magnitude: 7.0
Severe damage in the Avezzano-Pescina area. An estimated 3,000 more people died in the next few months from indirect effects of the earthquake. Felt throughout Central Italy from Veneto to Basilicata.
Date: Jul 23 1930 City: Irpinia Deaths: 1,400 Magnitude: 6.5
Most of the damage was in the Ariano Irpino-Melfi area of Avellino, Potenza and Foggia Provinces. Damage occurred as far away as Napoli (Naples). The quake was felt from the Po Valley to Catanzaro and Lecce Provinces. Earthquake lights were reported in the epicentral area.
Date: May 6 1976 Northeastern Italy Deaths: 1,000 Magnitude: 6.5
1,000 reported killed, at least 1,700 injured, and extensive damage in the epicentral area. The quake was reported felt throughout Europe. A magnitude 4.6 foreshock preceded the main shock by about 1 minute and 7 seconds. The main shock was followed by a number of aftershocks, at least one reaching a magnitude of 5, that caused additional damage and injuries.
Date: Nov 23 1980 Southern Italy Deaths: 3,000 Magnitude: 6.5
Over 3,000 people killed, about 1,900 missing, 7,750 injured, 250,000 homeless and extensive damage in a 25,000 square kilometer area of Campania and Basilicata.
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Web Resources

Seismic Maps of Italy

Italian Earthquake, Disaster, Engineering, and Research Institutes

MCEER Publications

To purchase MCEER technical reports, please visit the MCEER Publications Catalog for additional information.

  • Proceedings of the U.S. — Italy Workshop on Seismic Protective Systems for Bridges
  • MCEER-98-0015

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