SANT'AGOSTINO DI FERRARA, Italy – A magnitude-6.0 earthquake shook several small towns in northeastItaly Sunday, killing four people, knocking down a clock tower andother centuries-old buildings and causing millions in losses to theregion known for making Parmesan cheese. The quake struck at 4:04 a.m., with its epicenter about 35kilometers (22 miles) north of Bologna at a relatively shallowdepth of 5 kilometers (3.2 miles), the U.S. Geological Survey said.Civil protection agency official Adriano Gumina described it as theworst quake to hit the region since the 1300s. The four people killed were factory workers on the overnight shiftwhen their buildings, in three separate locations, collapsed,agency chief Franco Gabrielli said, In addition, he said, two womendied -- apparently of heart attacks that may have been sparked byfear. Sky TG24 TV reported one of them was about 100 years old. |
Gabrielli said dozens of people were injured. Two of the dead were workers at a ceramics factory in the town ofSant'Agostino di Ferrara. Their cavernous building turned into apile of rubble, leaving twisted metal supports jutting out at oddangles and the roof mangled. "This is immense damage, but the worst part is we lost two people,"fellow worker Stefano Zeni said.
News reports said one of the deadhad worked the shift of an ill colleague. Elsewhere in the town,another worker was found dead under factory rubble. In the town of Ponte Rodoni di Bondeno, a worker also died as hisfactory collapsed, emergency workers told Italian news agencies. Premier Mario Monti, in Chicago for the NATO summit, told reportershe was returning to Italy before the meeting ends because of thequake.
The quake struck in the farm region known for production ofParmigiano and Grana cheeses. Italy's farm lobby Coldiretti saidthat some 200,000 huge, round cheeses were damaged, causing a lossto producers of euro50 million ($65 milion). It also said in a statement that at least three barn roofscollapsed, trapping an unspecified number of pigs and milk cowsinside. Emilio Bianco, receptionist at Modena's Canalgrande hotel -- housedin an ornate 18th-century palazzo -- said the quake "was a strongone, and it lasted quite a long time." The hotel suffered no damageand the Modena province itself was spared, but guests spilled intothe streets as soon as the quake hit, he said.
In Sant'Agostino. resident Alberto Fiorini said there was`'pandemonium" during the night. "I took shelter under the bed andI prayed," he said. Mohamed Atzerc, also from Sant'Agostino, said he had feared for thesafety of his three small children. "They were crying.
A wardrobe collapsed in front of the door. Thelight went out and I thought that everything was collapsing on mychildren," who were unharmed, he said. Many people were still awake at 4 a.m. and milling about town sincestores and restaurants were open all night. The epicenter was between the towns of Finale Emilia, San Felicesul Panaro and Sermide, but the quake was felt as far away asTuscany and northern Alto Adige.
One woman on the outskirts of Finale Emilia told Sky her 5-year-olddaughter was trapped on her bed by the bricks of a 14th-centurytower that toppled onto their home. Firefighters and other rescuers freed the child without a scratchafter two hours. A supporting beam had protected her from fallingrubble, rescuers and the mother said. Nearly 12 hours after the quake, a sharp aftershock alarmed theresidents of Sant'Agostino di Ferrara and knocked off part of awall of city hall. The building already had been pummeled by thepre-dawn quake, which left a gaping hole on one side of it.
The same aftershock knocked down most of the clock tower in thetown of Finale Emilia, injuring a firefighter and leaving only halfthe clock affixed. Sky TG24 showed the firefighter lying in thestreet near the rubble. The national geophysics institute assignedan initial magnitude of 5.1 to the aftershock. The quake Sunday came as Italy was still reeling from Saturday'sbombing that killed a 16-year-old girl at a school in the country'ssouth. Pope Benedict XVI, in his traditional Sunday appearance from hisstudio window overlooking St.
Peter's Square, said he was`'spiritually close" to those affected by the quake, and askedpeople to join him in prayers for the dead and injured. The initial quake was followed around an hour later by a5.1-magnitude temblor, USGS said. It was preceded by amagnitude-4.1 temblor. In 2009, a temblor killed more than 300 people in the central cityof L'Aquila, where the historic center is still largely uninhabitedand in ruins.
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