Fifty Years Ago the Earth Shook

Fifty years ago during the night of January 14 to 15, 1968 through subsequent days leading to early February 1968, a series of earthquakes rocked southwestern Sicily. The Valle del Belice and the people who called it home have not been the same since. Because it was before the Richter Scale measured tremors in Italy, it is hard to say how strong the Terremoto del Belice, as it is known in Italy, was; However, know this: it wasn’t just one earthquake. It was many seismic events occurring on an Extreme level, one after another for many days.

The number of casualties is not as significant as it could have been because after the night of January 14, people slept outside away from buildings.

The center of the quake was in Gibellina, a town that was totally flattened and, upon rebuilding, was moved to a different location, 12 miles from its original position. Other towns affected in the Belice Valley (to name a few) include Santa Margherita di Belice, Santa Ninfa, Partanna, Salaparuta, Poggioreale, Montevago, Salemi, and Sambuca di Sicilia, pictured here in a photo from May 2016. A lot can be said of this tragedy that killed about 230 people, left nearly a thousand injured, and some say, 100,000 people homeless.

Despicably, the Italian government and regional government of Sicily were completely unprepared to manage such a disaster. Thousands of people lived in tents and army-style barracks for more than a decade following the earthquakes. Still today, you will find evidence of the dysfunction and corruption that plagued the rescue and rebuilding efforts.

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