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If Italy is a G-8 country, why did a moderate earthquake kill so many?

Posted by John Reed on

I don’t understand why so many die in an earthquake in Italy. You expect that in the underdeveloped world, but Italy is a G-8 country.
Earthquakes in rural areas kill almost no one and no animals. Earthquake damages nothing but humans and their structures and almost all the deaths are the result of inadequately designed structures collapsing on top of people.
Furthermore, third-world countries do not have a near monopoly on earthquakes. We have them in CA and Japan and other well-developed areas. What the third world, and Italy who would deny being part of the third world, DO have a near monopoly on is hundreds or thousands dying in earthquakes.
Why? To withstand earthquakes, buildings need horizontal strength which comes from having a wood or steel frame. The typical house in the US would not collapse in an earthquake although it would often be damages. No one would hurt, though, except by things inside the house falling on them. The house itself may move but its structure will remain basically intact. In an AK earthquake, some wood frame houses slid all the way down a hill, but remained shoe box shaped houses. The occupants did not get killed. They just got a ride.
The way to get killed in an earthquake is not be in an unreinforced masonry structure. Bricks and mortar with no steel or wood to preserve the basic shape of the structure. An earthquake is like the tablecloth being pulled out from under a table setting. If there is a stack of kids block on the cloth, it will come down. But if there is, say, a kids toy box on the table, it will remain a toy box and a kid inside it would not be seriously injured.
What Italians need to explain is why they continued to build houses in this way after the world became informed on how to do it right. For example, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake taught a lot of lessons that seemed to have been ignored in places like Americe, Italy. Also, why did they not condemn buildings built before or without complying with earthquake best practices?
In my local San Francisco, older buildings have been told to retrofit or lose their occupancy permits. In SF, when you see an older building, often visible through the windows are huge diagonal steel beams that have been put in as earthquake retrofitting. You can see a few buildings still intact in the Italian towns hit by the quake. Apparently their owners and builders made the effort to research and design and went to the expense of building earthquake-resistant buildings.
Italy is famous for smirking at rules like paying taxes, being faithful to your wife, and complying with well-drawn building codes. Okay, you made your pile of rubble, now lie in it—after you dig out the dead and wounded who are already lying in it.
Italy should be prosecuted for impersonating a responsible, developed-world country. The G-8, which already became the G-7 by suspending Russia, should also suspend Italy, which has about the same GDP as Russia, until they clean up their act. Make it the G-6: US, UK, France, Germany, Japan, Canada; all places where it is much harder to get killed by an earthquake.

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