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How to write a L’Aquila earthquake case study

There are several questions that you need to ask when writing a case study. In the case of the L’Aquila earthquake case study the questions to be asked and answered are these: -

Now let’s answer the questions.


The earthquake hit the mediaeval town of L’Aquila in the Abruzzo region in central Italy. This region is east of Rome and is on the Adriatic coast, with the Apennines as a backdrop. The region, like that of the neighbouring Marche region has many ancient walled mediaeval towns situated on hill tops.


The L’Aquila earthquake happened in 2009 on the 6th of April. The tremor was a magnitude 6.3 (5.8 on the Richter scale) one and it struck at 3:32 am. There had been many small tremors beforehand, starting in December 2008.


The mediaeval town of L’Aquila is situated on a fault line, so movements of tectonic plates can cause an earthquake. There were many aftershocks which seismometers detected for several months after the initial quake.

The tectonic plates, the Eurasian and African ones, responsible for the building of the Alps in northern Italy, collided in the area under the Apennines.

What were the results?

The quake and aftershocks damaged between 3,000 and 11,000 buildings, most of them dating back to mediaeval times. 308 people died and around 1,500 were injured with 67,500 being made homeless. These people were either accommodated in special camps or were moved into hotels on the coast.


5 months after the earthquake, some of the homeless were moved into new homes. However, not all were so lucky. The town’s ancient centre remained closed for some time while reconstruction work took place. Later public officials were under scrutiny for alleged wrongdoing in the awarding of building contracts.

In September 2011, scientists and a government official were tried for manslaughter. These people had all been part of a government commission charged with risk assessment after many small tremors had been recorded in the area prior to the earthquake. Seven people were convicted of the manslaughter of the earthquake victims in October 2012, although the convictions of the scientists were subsequently overturned in November 2014 after successful appeals. The government official who had been tried with the scientists was not acquitted, however.

The Italian Prime Minister at the time, Silvio Berlusconi, refused foreign aid which could have cushioned the blow to residents of L’Aquila. However, he did accept donations from the US which went towards rebuilding the infrastructure.

Because of the dust and particles of debris in the air, many people suffered respiratory problems.

Because the area was thought to be unsafe, there was a dramatic reduction of tourists and the revenue that came from tourism.

The government stopped taxing the people temporarily and allowed them to fall behind with their mortgage payments.

Earthquake survivors were accommodated in tents for up to eight months before being moved to buildings which were designed to withstand earthquakes. Although people had what they needed for their survival, their accommodation was somewhat remote, and it was difficult for them to get to shops and other facilities that people generally take for granted.

About 16,000 jobs were lost in the area because service industries and businesses left the area because it was deemed unsafe.

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  • Decisions were made to take action so that preparations for evacuation could be made when tremors were first detected. There had been hundreds of foreshocks before the L’Aquila earthquake.
  • Scientific support and alarm systems must be supported by local plans for emergency preparations. Prior to the L’Aquila earthquake, residents had been assured that an earthquake was not about to happen. Thus reassured, they didn’t take any action.
  • Local efforts should be enhanced, but not replaced, by outside responses from the government and other bodies.
  • There should be a clear hierarchy within local government and other bodies so that emergencies can be dealt with effectively and efficiently.
  • Because disasters can happen at any time without warning, there should be systems and programmes in place to reduce the risks to the public.

In August 2016, yet another earthquake struck, just 40 kilometres from L’Aquila. That was registered as a 6.2 magnitude quake which killed around 60 people. The town of Amatrice was destroyed.

The Norica earthquake of October 2016 was a 6.6 magnitude one and this destroyed several historic buildings but resulted in few injuries or deaths.

In 2017 a 4.0 magnitude quake was felt in the L’Aquila province at 4.13 am. Its tremors were felt in the neighbouring Marche region. The epicentre of that quake was just 14 kilometres from Amatrice. However, after this quake there were no reports of people being injured, or of damage to buildings.

There are several problems that you might have encountered when researching for this case study. If you are not a native speaker of English, you would be expected to know that you are required to write about the most devastating or the most important or well-known earthquake in L’Aquila. There have been many, so in theory, you could write about any of them. If the assignment had given the date of the earthquake, that would have eliminated the problem, but it didn’t. Also, if the rubric had said ‘The’ L’Aquila earthquake, then this would also have indicated that you were to write about the most important one in the area.

Researching for the case study, you have to be very careful that you have the facts and figures for the 2009 earthquake. Because there have been quite a few, you need to check the information you are presented with on the internet very carefully and cross check it with relevant information from other sites. You can’t simply rely on one site for all the information you need to gather.

Only use authoritative sites for your information gathering. These will either be well-known sites such as the BBC, or the quality press, all of which have internet sites which are regularly updated, so that you have the most up-to-date information at your fingertips.

Generally, tabloids should not be used as source material. You need to check out The Guardian, The Telegraph, and The Times and the Sunday Observer, which are all British newspapers. As for American newspapers, it’s safe to use The New York Times, The Wall Street journal and The Washington Post. The print versions of these newspapers can usually be found in Europe, although it’s probably easier to read them online.

You also need to use reputable reliable sites in the internet. For example, their addresses should end

Make sure you make notes so that you can write up your case study. You will need to make a note of the dates the articles were published, or you can’t site your sources accurately. Check with your tutor how you should site material that you have downloaded from the internet. Usually you need to put the date you downloaded it on the file.

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