'Eerily similar' earthquake hit Italian region in 2009

Rescue workers searched for bodies in the rubble of a destroyed building in L'Aquila, Italy, after a 6.3-magnitude earthquake tore through the region in April 2009.

Story highlights

  • A 6.3-magnitude quake struck central Italy in 2009
  • That disaster was on the minds of many after this week's quake

(CNN)A powerful quake strikes near the Earth's surface in the early morning darkness, shaking people from their slumber and demolishing buildings in historic mountain towns.

That's what happened in central Italy on Wednesday. But it wasn't the first time. Another temblor rattled the region in 2009, and the parallels are striking.
    "I've never seen a quake quite so similar to another one," CNN International meteorologist Pedram Javaheri said, calling the juxtaposition "eerily similar."
    The 2009 disaster, which was dubbed the L'Aquila earthquake after the name of the medieval city at its epicenter, killed more than 300 people.
    L'Aquila is about 50 km (31 miles) from Amatrice, the town at the center of this week's quake. Both quakes had a depth of about 10 km (6.2 miles) and struck at about 3:30 a.m.
    As rescuers searched the rubble for survivors and took stock of damage, experts weren't the only ones drawing comparisons.
    In the mountain village of Accumoli, where 2,500 people were displaced from their homes, Mayor Stefano Petrucci said the quake that hit seven years ago was still on his mind.
    "The wound caused by the L'Aquila earthquake is still fresh, and we fear being forgotten," he told Italy's state-run ANSA news agency.

    The damage

    Italy is no stranger to seismic activity. The earthquake-prone country has seen a number of strong quakes, including one in 1915 that killed 32,000 people.
    The mountainous, central spine of the country is highly seismically active, with many faults running through it, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
    The death toll in the 2009 quake was far lower, but witnesses described the damage as devastating. Monuments from the Middle Ages were destroyed. Churches collapsed. Tens of thousands of people lost their homes. Authorities estimated it would cost billions of dollars to rebuild.
    In the village of Onna, 40 people -- more than one out of every eight residents in the town of 300 -- were killed by the 6.3-magnitude quake.
    Residents inspect the rubble of buildings destroyed by an earthquake on April 6, 2009 in Onna, Italy.
    Then-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi drew praise for his visits to the region, but soon came under fire for comparing the ordeal of survivors staying in tents to a vacation.
    "They should see it like a weekend of camping," he told a German television station.
    But the prime minister and other government officials vowed to rebuild new homes for the quake's victims.
    "It will be very important, and we will collect together all the necessary money and funds as soon as possible to rebuild, once we overcome any bureaucratic paperwork and issues," Berlusconi said at the time. "Building will be carried out as soon as possible -- fast."

    The aftermath

    But corruption plagued the rebuilding efforts. And many of the hardest hit areas were still reeling years later.
    Years after the 2009 earthquake struck, many residents were still unable to return to their homes. Buildings remained in ruins, with rubble blocking streets.
    The heart of L'Aquila still hasn't been rebuilt, The Irish Times reported earlier this year, describing the city's historic center as a "ghost town."
    Standing in front of the rubble of a residential building that collapsed in this week's quake about 54 km (30 miles) away in Saletta, Italy, CNN's Barbie Nadeau said Wednesday that it's important to look at what happened after the 2009 disaster.
    At the time, there were swift calls to better prepare and protect the many older buildings in the region. Buildings over 100 years old were supposed to be reinforced with anti-seismic measures, Nadeau said. But were they? That will be a major question going forward, she said.
    "We're going to be, I'm sure, examining this for many days and months to come," Nadeau said, "to find out whether or not anyone in this neighborhood, not far from that devastated area, actually learned a lesson from the 2009 earthquake."