Belice earthquake 1968
Date: 15 January 1968, h. 3
Magnitude: 6.1 (Maw)
Intensity at the epicentre: X grado (MCS)
In January 1968 a long seismic period started in western Sicily which ended in February 1969, with many tremors, the most intense occurring between 14 and 25 January 1968.
The first shakes were felt on 14 January 1968: the whole of western Sicily shook, no buildings collapsed but people panicked and decided, fortunately, to sleep outside, wrapped in blankets or in their cars, in the piazzas in towns or in the open countryside. In the middle of the night a terribly violent tremor occurred in fact, in the Valle del Belice, where the towns of Gibellina, Salaparuta, S. Ninfa, Montevago, Partanna, Poggioreale and Santa Margherita Belice suffered dreadful damage. These towns are in the provinces of Trapani and Agrigento that, at the time of the earthquake, were not classified as seismic. 90% of the buildings in the countryside suffered irreparable damage, with serious repercussions on the almost exclusively agricultural economy in the area. The characteristics and age of the buildings aggravated the damage, built mostly from square stones with insufficient mortar, no links between the structural parts and inadequate foundations.
On 25 January, at 10.52, another unexpected grade VII aftershock on the MCS occurred while a team of relief operators was working in the ruins, killing a fireman. The shaking also caused damage in Sciacca and Palermo, where people left schools, offices and houses and once again slept outside.