The seismic crisis in the Central Apennines in Italy does not stop. Although the number of earthquakes per day decreased a lot since January 18, however many seismic events still struck the “crater”. This name, used by the press for the area of the Central Apennines where the seismic events occur since last summer, gives a good feeling about how tough is life in those areas.
Recently the web and italian newspapers hosted a debate about the information used to list the earthquakes’s foci. In fact some mayors complained about a possibly distorted use by the media of the data provided by the seismological agencies. As known, for every seismic location several information are available (coordinates, depth, magnitude, closest cities, shake maps when available, amplitudes and so on), but they are often reduced to very basic by journalists. The position of the earthquake is often simply described by the name of the closest town to the epicenter, its province or even the region. According to the mayors of some of the towns inside the crater, this simplification has a very negative impact on the public and especially on the potential tourists.
As expected, people are not willing to spend time in places where the chance to be shaken by an earthquake is high. Disseminating very generic information, the mayors say, causes tourists to believe that the whole region is at danger, and they will not book their vacations in these areas.
It is questionnable whether a region that has experienced a strong earthquake might stand the burden of an increased flow of tourists. For example, the driveability may suffer from the increased traffic jam, and in turn this may interfere with the reconstruction. But it is also clear that flagging out a region from touristic routes now will mean to work hard to get back tourists in future. Thus, since only a part of the regions (there are in fact four regions interested Umbria-Lazio-Abruzzo-Marche) have been damaged by the earthquakes, the message should be more precise in showing where tourists may have problem in finding hotels, open roads, restaurants and so on and which areas are not recommended .
From the point of view of a seismologist, this piece of news makes evident the necessity of a stronger cooperation between scientists, press and public. And it should make us meditate on the impact that the information we provide may have on the community.