August 21, 1962, the forgotten earthquake

A story maps tells and recalls the earthquake that struck Irpinia and Sannio in the early 1960s. At the time they also called it “the earthquake lord”: about twenty confirmed victims, 16 thousand were left homeless

On 21 August 1962 a large sector of the Campania Apennines, including Sannio and Irpinia, was hit by two violent earthquakes which caused extensive damage and brought some municipalities to their knees in the provinces of Benevento and Avellino. The first shock was felt at 16.56: it was strong enough to frighten the population but caused no damage. About two hours later, two more violent tremors, one at 19.09, the other at 19.19. The second was the one that caused the most damage. The story maps “August 21, 1962: a forgotten earthquake” is dedicated to the ‘earthquake sir’, as it was called at that time, available in the dedicated section of INGVterremoti and at the link: f351489b8da7483b978c2e52e6dc9f75

Earthquake forgotten because the seismic event of 21 August 1962 can be considered an apparently minor episode in the history of republican Italy, yet for contemporaries it was a traumatic event to say the least, which aroused a great wave of solidarity. The story map was created thanks to the collaboration between IngvTerremoti and the authors of the book “21 August 1962 – History and memory of a forgotten earthquake”, Alessandro Mazzaro and Angelo Coscia.

It reconstructs the events of that earthquake that killed about twenty people and left over 16,000 people homeless, with an estimated magnitude of 6.1. Not only that: the earthquake reactivated ancient landslides or accentuated the pre-existing geological instabilities of the hills on which some of the most affected villages were located. For the municipalities of Melito Irpino and Apice, the landslide movements led to the decision for total eviction. The abandoned villages were rebuilt on different sites.

The story maps is organized in 7 chapters and contains texts, images, photographs, documents, videos and scientific data on the earthquake of August 21, 1962, most of which are extracted from the book “August 21, 1962 – History and memory of a forgotten earthquake”, especially rich in testimonies reported in the newspapers and newspapers of the time. In the first two chapters, the story maps describes the characteristics of the seismic sequence and the effects of the earthquake also through more in-depth studies that have made it possible to improve the knowledge of the macroseismic field.

In the following chapters, a historical and social analysis of the territories hit by the earthquake alternates, but also of quite unpublished episodes such as the ‘extra’ miracle of San Gennaro and the excommunication for parents who sent their children to the colonies of central and northern Italy. The issue of moving the inhabited centers of Apice (in the province of Benevento) and Melito Irpino (in the province of Avellino) is also addressed, for which the earthquake of 1962 represented only the last stage in a chain of triggering events. The story maps ends with a poem in dialect, which represents a direct testimony of those who experienced that earthquake.