A few days ago, an earthquake struck Italy's Apennines mountain range, destroying villages and killing almost three hundred people. The geology around the Mediterranean is a deadly mess, involving a number of tiny tectonic plates all subducting, colliding, pulling apart, or scraping past each other. This leads to plenty of earthquakes and volcanoes. Add in communities with ancient masonry buildings, and you get a recipe for disaster when the earth shakes. The before and after images of the towns destroyed in this quake are terrifying.

Natural disasters often leave us feeling helpless and afraid, but there are things you can do to mitigate the There are plenty of ways you can help the citizens of the affected areas:

You can also donate to the National Italian American Foundation, which is supporting rescue and other relief operations. 

ShelterBox, a disaster relief charity, is distributing boxes with supplies like tents, blankets and water purification systems in Italy. You can donate here or by calling 941-907-6036. 

The USGS has shake maps and a tectonic summary that give a good overview of what happened.

The August 24, 2016 M 6.2 earthquake southeast of Norcia, Italy, occurred as the result of shallow normal faulting on a NW-SE oriented fault in the Central Apennines. The Apennines is a mountain range that runs from the Gulf of Taranto in the south to the southern edge of the Po basin in northern Italy. Geologically, the Apennines is largely an accretionary wedge formed as a consequence of subduction. This region is tectonically and geologically complex, involving both subduction of the Adria micro-plate beneath Eurasia and the Apennines from east to west, continental collision between the Eurasia and Nubia (Africa) plates building the Alpine mountain belt further to the north and the opening of the Tyrrhenian basin to the west (the latter of which is in turn related to Adria subduction and eastward trench migration). The evolution of this system has caused the expression of all different tectonic styles acting at the same time in a broad region surrounding Italy and the central Mediterranean. The August 24, 2016 normal faulting earthquake is an intraplate event, an expression of the east-west extensional tectonics that now dominate along the Apennine belt.

Jay Patton has a lot of maps, diagrams, and explanations of different aspects of this quake and the region's seismicity.

Berkeley's Seismo Blog has a couple of excellent posts on this disaster. Their first post compares this quake to the 2009 L'Aquila quake that happened nearby, and explains the differences between them. Their second post, No Culture of Prevention, explains why this earthquake was so devastating to lives and buildings, even though it wasn't much more powerful than the 2014 Napa earthquake:

One reason for the enormous destruction caused by relatively small quakes in Italy can be traced to the age of many buildings, particularly in small, rural towns and villages. Many structures there date back centuries or even to the Middle Ages. When they were built, nobody cared or had a clue about earthquake resistant construction methods. However, earthquake engineers have also encountered modern buildings which did not comply with those aspects in the Italian building code, which relate to earthquake safety and resiliance. The 27 pupils mentioned earier died in a modern school building in the town of San Giuliano di Puglia. It turned out that during its construction the earthquake safety measures required by law were bypassed or ignored.

Do you know how to stay safe in an earthquake? I've got plenty of safety tips for you here.