The magnitude 6.0 earthquake near Bologna on Sunday killed several people and caused many millions of euros of damage, some of it to irreplaceable works of art and seems to be yet another seismic event in a series that include quakes in Japan, New Zealand, Indonesia and Chile.
Where they occur, earthquakes cause widespread economic as well as physical damage and when they rip through areas popular with tourists, they can have a long term detrimental effect on tourism to the regions through stigmatisation.
Christchurch in New Zealand suffered a dramatic drop in the number of travellers visiting the city, at a time when income from any source was much needed to help get local businesses back on their feet. Tourist agencies in northern Italy are now concerned that having only just put the memory of the L’Aquila earthquake of 2009 out of people’s minds, the latest quake might hit tourism hard in the Emilia Romagna region.
As with every dark cloud, there is a silver lining; as well as the aid that floods in to help communities back on their feet, a new breed of tourist is often found in the earthquake region; those who want to experience, if they can, the immense power when the earth moves. All earthquakes, with few exceptions have aftershocks that follow in the next few hours or days and many arrive, despite the dangers, hoping to catch the aftershocks as well as more macabrely, gawp at the destruction.
More unusual still are the so called ‘earthquake chasers’ who model themselves on those that chase tornadoes in America’s Mid-West. There’s even a website dedicated to passing on details of where quakes may occur, signalled through pre-shocks, animal behaviour and more. www.quakechasers.yolasite.com provides a near real time catalogue of potential seismic activity and records the effects afterwards. Site users are often thrill-seekers hoping that they can be in a region when a quake strikes but still more hopeful of getting out to tell the tale. Many of them deliberately choose to live in an earthquake zone, heightening their chances, including the founders of Quake Chasers; Don and Petra. Others use the site to make sure they’re well away from seismic activity and Don considerately posts ‘safe zones’ on his site where you can be guaranteed the earth won’t move for you.
Whichever your stance, earthquakes happen all the time, you’ve only got to look at the US Geological Survey website www.earthquake.usgs.gov to see that dozens occur each week, so if you’re heading to an earthquake zone this summer – be prepared!