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A series of tremors has Florence concerned for its 'David'
by Staff Writers
Rome (AFP) Dec 20, 2014

Historic buildings closed by Tuscany tremors
Rome (AFP) Dec 19, 2014 - Some of Tuscany's landmark historic buildings were closed to visitors Friday as part of the region was shaken by 80 mini-earthquakes centred on the Chianti wine region.

The tremors reached a maximum magnitude of 4.1 but were sufficiently powerful to result in some schools, houses and offices being evacuated.

Tourist access to the Palazzo Vecchio, the Renaissance town hall in Florence, was briefly suspended while its Arnolfo tower and the Mangia tower on Siena's Campo (central piazza) were closed until further notice while checks for structural damage were carried out.

The epicentre of the strongest quake was nine kilometres (six miles) below ground close to Greve in Chianti, one of the best known wine villages in an area of rolling hills around and between Florence and Siena.

The area lies in the foothills of the central section of the Apennine mountains, which run like a spine down the centre of Italy and are subject to significant seismic activity.

The National Institute for Geophysics and Vulcanology (INGV) said there had been more than 80 tremors since early Thursday with the strongest measuring 4.1 coming in mid-morning on Friday.

INGV seismologist Alessandro Amato said it was impossible to predict how long the tremors would continue for. The seismic activity was similar to tremor patterns seen in other parts of Italy recently, he added.

More than 250 minor tremors have rattled the Florence region over the past three days, sparking alarm in Italy over the safety of Michelangelo's "David" statue.

According to the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, the two strongest shocks in the Chianti region between Florence and Siena Friday measured 3.8. and 4.1 on the Richter scale, though many others recorded early Saturday reached three to 3.5.

No one was hurt in the quakes, and fire fighters reported only minor structural damage near the epicentre about 30 kilometres (18.6 miles) south of Florence.

Still, media reports said some 200 residents of the area preferred sleeping in campers, cars or tents in neighbouring areas Friday night rather than shaking at home.

The multitude of shocks has raised concerns for Florence's invaluable architectural and cultural patrimony.

On Saturday, Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini announced the state is investing 200,000 euros ($245,000) for an anti-seismic plinth for Michelangelo's "David", a tourist magnet in Florence.

Last spring a study revealed that the renaissance masterpiece -- which was sculpted from a five tonne marble bloc that was already fissured -- was at risk of collapsing if "micro-fractures" within the legs expanded.

A platform to protect the statue from vibrations was ordered to address the problem but the recent quakes "make this project even more urgent," Franceschini said in a statement.

"A masterpiece like 'David' must not be left to any risk," he said.

Angelo Tartuferi, director of Florence's Accademia Gallery that houses the statue, told Italian news agency ANSA that with the financing provided, the platform should be ready for use within the year.

The last major earthquake in Italy was a 6.3-magnitude jolt that killed 309 people in the central town of L'Aquila in April 2009, and was preceded by several weeks of minor tremors.

The biggest seismic event in recent history in the Florence region dates back to 1895, when a quake with an estimated magnitude of 5.4 provoked considerable damage in the hills to the north of the city.

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