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May 2012



On May 20th, there was a magnitude 6.0 earthquake in northern Italy (4km/2mi ENE of Composanta). The Mediterranean region is seismically active due to the northward convergence (4-10 mm/yr) of the African plate with respect to the Eurasian plate along a complex plate boundary. Large earthquakes throughout the Mediterranean region have also been known to produce significant and damaging tsunamis.

Italy is about the size of Georgia and Florida combined. Its capital, Rome, has a population about 2.8 million people; other major cities include: Milan, Naples, and Turin. Italy's terrain is mostly rugged and mountainous with some plains, and coastal lowlands. Its climate is predominantly Mediterranean, Alpine in far north, and hot/dry in south.

Italy is largely homogeneous linguistically and religiously but is diverse culturally, economically, and politically. It has the fifth-highest population density in Europe. Greeks settled in the southern tip of the Italian Peninsula in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C.; Etruscans, Romans, and others inhabited the central and northern mainland. The peninsula was subsequently unified under the Roman Republic. The neighboring islands came under Roman control by the third century B.C.; by the first century A.D., the Roman Empire effectively dominated the Mediterranean world. In 1861, Victor Emmanuel II of the House of Savoy was proclaimed King of Italy. Rome was incorporated in 1870. From 1870 until 1922, Italy was a constitutional monarchy with a parliament elected under limited suffrage.

During World War I, Italy renounced its standing alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary and, in 1915, entered the war on the side of the Allies. Under the postwar settlement, Italy received some former Austrian territory along the northeast frontier. In World War II, Italy allied with Germany and declared war on the United Kingdom and France in 1940. A 1946 plebiscite ended the monarchy. Under the 1947 peace treaty, minor adjustments were made in Italy's frontiers. Italy also relinquished its overseas territories and certain Mediterranean islands.

The natural resources of Italy are: coal, mercury, zinc, potash, marble, barite, asbestos, pumice, fluorspar, feldspar, pyrite (sulfur), natural gas and crude oil reserves, fish, and arable land. Natural hazards facing Italy include: regional risks include landslides, mudflows, avalanches, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, flooding; and land subsidence in Venice.

To find out more about the earthquake, visit the USGS site for Earthquake Hazards Program site.

CIA World Factbook; U.S. State Department Background Notes; U.S. Geological Survey, 5/2012; 1/2012; 5/2012

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