Since the first strong earthquake struck the northern Italian region of Emilia Romagna, the heartland of Italy’s manufacturing industry, the region has literally been turned upside down. When the first 6.0-magnitude earthquake hit the region between Modena and Ferrara on 20 May, seven people reportedly died, many buildings and historic structures were either destroyed or heavily damaged and thousands left homeless. After many aftershocks a second strong earthquake, measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale, struck the region on 29 May. The recent series of heavy earthquakes and aftershocks has a dramatic impact on the area’s medical device industry. The region between the cities of Modena and Mirandola is home to over 100 medical manufacturers and hence identified as the heart of the Italian medical device manufacturing industry. “The companies cannot operate for safety reasons,” says Paolo Galavotti, General Manager Nexion srl, who lives near the epicenter in heavily affected Mirandola. Nexion assists in the design and development of medical device samples and prototypes. Galavotti’s office and laboratory were damaged in the first earthquake on Sunday 20 May and the warehouse collapsed. “This is all a real disaster for the biomedical sector of the Mirandola area,” he stresses.
Galavotti says that about 70 to 80% of manufacturing plants are currently being kept in a standby modus for safety reasons; 3500 people working in the medical business are forced to stay home until the manufacturing plants will reopen again and some of the plants have collapsed. He says he knows of 15 people who have died as buildings collapsed––some of them were the owners of the companies.
Galavotti notes that this week, firemen who are currently inspecting the damage, are expected to announce that some companies can resume their activities if the buildings are safe. “But nobody knows how many of them are able to continue as before,” he states. He adds that while the first earthquake, which struck on a Sunday morning, caused major damage, there weren’t as many casualties as during the second quake, which hit on a Tuesday at around 9 AM during a normal working day when employees and owners were working inside the buildings trying to restart and reorganise activities after the first quake. ”This (region) was never identified as an earthquake area,” he notes. “In 2008, Mirandola was identified for the first time as a low level earthquake activity.” He adds that the last earthquake that was this devasting happened more than 400 years ago in the Ferrara area, which is located about 60 km from Mirandola.
Galavotti says that the earthquakes will probably have an impact on MEDTEC Italy, scheduled to take place 26 to 27 September in Modena. “Although the Modena area is safer because it’s near the mountains, the exhibitors coming from Mirandola will probably be more focused in rebuilding their factories and restart productivity. But going ahead with MEDTEC in Modena will be good to return to normality and go about business as usual.”
According to Earthquake Report, the result of the first earthquake that hit the Emilia Romagna Region on 20 May is seven fatalities, 50 are reported injured and 6000 homeless. The damages are estimated to exceed 400 to 500 million Euros in damages, which amounts to 0.3% of Emilia-Romagna’s GDP. From that second quake, 17 fatalities were reported, 350 injured, 9000 additional homeless, and an estimated loss dramatically exceeding that of the first event.Yvonne Klöpping