Abstract

This paper documents evidence of surface faulting associated with the 6 April 2009 moderate-sized earthquake (ML 5.8, Mw 6.3) in the central Apennines of Italy, which caused major damage to the town of L’Aquila and its surroundings. Coseismic surface ruptures were mapped for a minimum distance of 2.6 km along the Paganica fault, a fault still poorly investigated relative to the other active faults nearby, which bound much wider range fronts. Surface rupture length (SRL) and maximum displacement parameters (2.6 km minimum and 10–15 cm, respectively) are in agreement with what is expected for an Mw 6.3 event in the Italian Apennines tectonic environment. Different viewpoints exist on the amount of SRL and the number of activated faults. We propose a pattern of sympathetic and secondary slip on an array of faults around the master seismogenic structure. Past seismicity and evidence for larger Holocene offsets on this and other capable faults nearby prove that the 2009 event is not a good reference event for assessing the seismic hazard of the region. Nevertheless, the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake once more confirmed the importance of detailed geological studies for a proper seismic hazard assessment, and it clearly illustrates the need to pay attention to moderate events and supposedly minor active faults. Indeed, this type of earthquake is rather frequent in the whole Mediterranean region and is potentially much more destructive than in the past, due to the expanding urban centers and infrastructures inside their epicentral regions and even right above the traces of capable faults.

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