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Why Italy faces constant threat of earthquakes

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Italy has a long history of being hit by powerful, destructive earthquakes. The country is one of the most seismically active in Europe, sitting at the meeting point of two tectonic plates, reported Sky News.

The Alps in the north have been formed by the African tectonic plate pushing into the Eurasian plate.

That process is ongoing and the plates continue to move at around 3cm a year.

These geological faults, or weaknesses in the Earth's crust, extend all the way up the spine of Italy.

They are slowly pulling the crust - and the Apennine mountain range - apart.

This can have devastating consequences for communities, as seen in the latest quake to hit central Italy on Sunday, and some quakes have caused huge loss of life.

Italy's most destructive earthquakes include:

- A 6.2 magnitude tremor, which killed nearly 300 people on 4 August 2016, virtually destroyed the town of Amatrice, north of L'Aquila.

- On 6 April 2009 a 6.3 magnitude tremor hit near L'Aquila, causing around 300 deaths.

-  The Campania region, around Naples, was hit by 6.9 magnitude quake on 23 November 1980 which caused around 3,000 deaths.

- 400 people died in Sicily on 15 January 1968 when a 5.5 magnitude tremor struck.

- Around 30,000 people died when L'Aquila was struck by 6.7 magnitude quake on 13 January 1915.  Between 75,000 and 200,000 people were killed when a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck the Strait of Messina, between mainland Italy and Sicily, on 28 December 1908.  The powerful quake triggered a tsunami which caused much of the damage.

As it sits on geological fault lines, it is not just earthquakes which Italy has to worry about.

It is also home to two of Europe's most active volcanoes. Mount Vesuvius is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in world.

Up to three million people live in the danger zone around Naples and Italian authorities have recently updated an evacuation plan should there be a major eruption again.

Its most famous eruption occurred in AD79 when the Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum were buried.

Mount Etna, on Sicily, has also erupted frequently in recent years.

The Foreign Office warns visitors to Italy about the risks of earthquakes and volcanoes.

It says: "Many parts of Italy lie on a major seismic fault line. Minor tremors and earthquakes are almost a daily occurrence."


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