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When an Earthquake Meets Truly Old Buildings

The impact of the 6.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Italy's Emilia-Romagna region on Sunday appears to have been made worse by the fact that significant seismic activity is rare there. Seven people have been reported dead in the aftermath of the first major earthquake anywhere nearby since the Ferrara quake of 1570.

Centuries of stable ground meant many villages in the region were well-stocked with Renaissance-era structures that were particularly vulnerable to tremors. In Finale Emilia, about 20 miles north of Bologna, a 14th century clock tower was split vertically, with the remaining half coming down during a powerful aftershock. 

The earthquake left behind an estimated 200 million in damages to the local agricultural and livestock industries and as many as 4,000 people homeless.

Via Reuters, images of some of the damage caused by Sunday's earthquake:

A damaged old tower is seen in Finale Emilia May 20, 2012. REUTERS/Giorgio Benvenuti 

The Town Hall building on Sant' Agostino near Ferrara is seen May 20, 2012. REUTERS/Giorgio Benvenuti 

People stand in front of a damaged church in Finale Emilia May 20, 2012. REUTERS/Giorgio Benvenuti

A rescue worker patrols in front of a ceramics factory in Sant' Agostino near Ferrara May 20, 2012. REUTERS/Giorgio Benvenuti

A damaged church is seen in Finale Emilia May 20, 2012. REUTERS/Giorgio Benvenuti 

Guardia di Finanza officers stand near a crucifix that fell from a church roof in Crevalcore near Bologna May 20, 2012.  REUTERS/Giorgio Benvenuti

People gather in front of the damaged Delle Rocche castle in Finale Emilia May 20, 2012. REUTERS/Giorgio Benvenuti

Bottles lie on the the ground in a market shop in Finale Emilia May 21, 2012. REUTERS/Giorgio Benvenuti 

A woman carries her belongings after an earthquake in Finale Emilia May 20, 2012. REUTERS/Giorgio Benvenuti

People gather on a street in front of the damaged Town Hall building on Sant' Agostino near Ferrara May 20, 2012. REUTERS/Giorgio Benvenuti 

The old tower is seen collapsed in Finale Emilia May 20, 2012. REUTERS/Giorgio Benvenuti 

Mark Byrnes is an associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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