The earthquake that wasn’t: Tech error at Italy’s Geology Institute prompts fears of 5.1 magnitude quake

The earthquake that wasn't: Tech error at Italy's Geology Institute prompts fears of 5.1 magnitude quake
Scenery in Macerata, where the 'ghost quake' took place. Photo: clodio/Depositphotos
A technical error caused the earthquake experts at Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (Ingv) to falsely report a 5.1 magnitude quake in central Italy on Thursday morning.

In fact, the quake's magnitude measured just 1.6.

“Because of a technical problem, it was erroneously associated with an earthquake of magnitude 5.1 which occured in the Philippines,” Ingv said in a statement published at around 8am.

The geologists added that the problem was “quickly corrected” by updating the site's earthquake list, and they apologized for the error.

Several of Italy's major news organizations, including Rai News, had already reported the tremblor.

A quake measuring under 2.0 on the Richter Scale is known as a 'microearthquake' and will rarely be felt by people in the area.

Those measuring above 5.0, however, are generally felt by everyone in the locality, and can cause damage to some buildings, though usually only when they have not been constructed robustly enough.

Thursday morning's minor quake measuring 1.6 magnitude took place at 5:17am close to Pieve Torina, a town of around 1,500 inhabitants in the Le Marche region.

Pieve Torina lies in the area which was badly hit by a series of earthquakes beginning in August 2016, the most serious measuring 6.6 on the Richter Scale. 

Further quakes were felt in January this year, which were compounded by a period of extreme weather, and were thought to be one of the causes of an avalanche which left 29 dead when a hotel was buried in a snowslide.

The earthquakes are estimated to have cost Italy €23 billion, and the rebuild is underway, but residents have complained things are not moving fast enough.

The first temporary homes have begun arriving in the affected towns, but hundreds of those left homeless by the quakes have travelled to Rome to protest the slow recovery effort.

READ ALSO: A village rebuilt 'stone-by-stone' after a deadly earthquake has been voted Italy's most beautiful
A village rebuilt 'stone by stone' after a deadly earthquake has been voted Italy's most beautiful

Photo: discosaur/Flickr

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