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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Earthquake Cheese Losses

The agricultural area shown above is an area of north-central Italy that usually does not experience earthquakes. On May 20, however, it experienced a 6.0 quake, with several modest aftershocks following.

Compared to other quakes that have been in the news in recent years, this was relatively small and casualties, though tragic, were few. Seven people died in the quake -- four while working in ceramic or food factories, many of which were damaged and three from fright-related medical problems.

More than $250,000,000 was lost in agricultural products, a lot of it in a surprising way. The area is known for its cheeses. You can use Google maps above to find the distance from the epicenter to the city of Parma, known for a famous cheese that may be in short supply for the next while. Because fine cheese are aged in large wheels, the earthquake in a few seconds damaged up to two years worth of production.

Tens of thousands of wheels -- each weighing more than 80 pounds and worth over $500 -- were damaged. Some might be salvaged, but exposure to air means that mold will ruin most of the cheese before it can be repackaged.

Photo: ABC News / AP
To view recent earthquakes visit the Real-time Earthquake page operated by USGS. It can be set to update automatically. In fact, while I was writing this article, a magnitude 4.5 earthquake struck Greece, and the map was updated with many details.

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