|A view of the collapsed Cathedral of St. Benedict in Norcia, central Italy. // Photo by AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia|
A 6.6 magnitude earthquake struck Italy this weekend, the BBC reports. This time there were no deaths reported, but 20 people were injured and the damage to the area around the town of Norcia was extensive.
“Though Trafalgar had two groups in the area when the earthquake struck, our guests and staff are all doing well and the trips are operating as scheduled,” Paul Wiseman, president of Trafalgar USA, tells Travel Agent.
“Avanti has an emergency response team and has checked in with all travelers in the area of the quake,” says Harry Dalgaard, president and founder of Avanti Destinations. “We are very grateful to report that none of our travelers were affected.”
According to the BBC the earthquake has sent 15,000 people to shelters and shut down Rome’s metro system on Sunday. Additionally, the Ponte Mazzini has been shut to traffic after cracks appeared in the early 20th century bridge, and a crack has also appeared in the facade of St. Paul’s Basilica.
The Local it reports that Norcia’s 14th-century Basilica, built on the reputed birthplace of Saint Benedict, was destroyed, with only the facade left standing. Additionally, in Amatrice, a 13th-century civic tower that had been damaged by the August earthquake collapsed.
The damage, however, was less than that caused by the earthquake that struck the region in August, killing nearly 300 people.
“The Italians have regretfully had to become pretty good at responding to these,” says George Taylor, vice president of global operations at iJet International. “Unlike other, less-prepared areas, Italy is prepared for these. So people need to listen to what they’re saying, and cooperate if they do want to help.”
Still, the historic area in which the earthquake hit does pose some unique challenges to first responders and relief workers in the area, says Taylor. Towns in this area were often built on hilltops to make them easier to defend, which makes accessibility restricted, and the age of the buildings poses challenges as well.
“The building code and standards that are in use now, which benefit from lessons learned when earthquakes take place, weren’t in effect when the majority of these buildings were built,” says Taylor. “Streets that are normally sized to accommodate cars in current times weren’t envisioned back then. The street’s already more narrow, so any type of debris will increase the impact.”
What can agents do if they have a client in an area affected by an earthquake? Taylor recommends a four-point plan that is also good to keep in mind when traveling generally:
1. Stay informed: Travelers can’t just expect to arrive on the ground and absorb 100 percent of the data that’s there, says Taylor.
2. Have a good communications plan: Travelers should determine in advance how they will communicate back home.
3. Maintain situational awareness: For example, if travelers are in an area where an earthquake took place, they should figure out which areas to avoid due to danger from debris, as well as to avoid impeding relief efforts.
4. Rehearse and drill: When travelers first arrive, they should test to make sure their communications plan works, before a potential emergency happens.