An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.8 on the Richter scale (6.3 on the Moment Magnitude Scale) hit the Abruzzo region of Italy on April 6, 2009 at 3:32 am. The epicenter was near L'Aquila; while the earthquake was felt throughout Central Italy (and as far away as Rome), the majority of damage was confined to the historical center of the city and surrounding medieval villages.
Red zones were drawn up immediately after the quake; off limits to residents and civilians, the zones effectively shut down urban centers.
A slow recovery and reconstruction effort, dogged by accusations of mismanagement and corruption, has meant that many towns remain closed off more than a year after the disaster.
Eventually, the government of Italy identified 57 "municipalities of the earthquake" (or comuni del cratere), distributed disproportionately between three provinces in the Abruzzo regions. Damage was greatest to towns and cities within these areas; aid and reconstruction efforts are focused entirely within the comuni.
With 59 inhabitants per square kilometer, the province of L?Aquila is the least densely populated in the Abruzzo region. When broken down into municipalities, it is easy to understand why the death toll was not much greater; for comparison, Rome, located a mere 100 km to the east has a population density of 777.6 inhabitants per square kilometer.
Though only 308 people died (several as a result of indirect causes, such as a heart attack), the death toll was greatest in L'Aquila, where a modern college dormitory collapsed on sleeping residents.
Building damage was widespread; official estimates put the total number of destroyed structures at 15,000. Non-engineered buildings, substandard construction methods, poor detailing, and the use of low quality materials - all prevalent in both modern concrete buildings and medieval structures - were responsible for the extensive damage in the area.
With an estimated 65,000 displaced, many were housed in tents near affected areas, while a large number were moved to hotels along the coast. The remaining percentage found housing with friends/relatives. In a show of solidarity (or perhaps as a shrewd PR move), prime minister Berlusconi offered up his own mansions to displaced residents.
New construction, while hardly fulfilling demand, has provided housing for those hardest hit by the disaster. As illustrated above, the percentage of residents that have occupied such buildings varies greatly between municipalities.