Four killed as deadly earthquake hits Italy
Four people died when a strong earthquake shook northeast Italy early yesterday, tearing off chunks of church facades and sending panicked residents into the streets.
Aftershocks wreaked more havoc in Bologna, including knocking down a clock tower and injuring a firefighter.
Civil defence agency official Adriano Gumina described the magnitude 6 quake as the worst to hit the region since the 1300s.
The four victims were factory workers on an overnight shift when their buildings, in three separate locations, collapsed, said agency chief Franco Gabrielli, In addition two women died – apparently of heart attacks. Sky TG24 TV reported one of them was about 100 years old.
Dozens of people were believed to be injured.
Two of the dead were workers at a ceramics factory in the town of Sant'Agostino di Ferrara. Their cavernous building turned into a pile of rubble.
“This is immense damage, but the worst part is we lost two people,” worker Stefano Zeni said. News reports said one of the dead had worked an ill colleague’s shift. 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 his factory collapsed.
Nearly 12 hours after the quake, a sharp aftershock alarmed the residents of Sant'Agostino di Ferrara and knocked off part of a wall of city hall. The building already had been pummelled by the pre-dawn quake, which left a gaping hole on one side of it.
The same aftershock knocked down the clock tower in the town of Finale Emilia, injuring a firefighter. TV images showed the firefighter lying in the street near the rubble.
Pope Benedict XVI, in his traditional Sunday appearance from his studio window overlooking St Peter's Square, said he was “spiritually close” to those affected by the quake, and asked people to join him in prayers for the dead and injured.
Emilio Bianco, receptionist at Modena’s Canalgrande hotel — housed in an ornate 18th century palazzo — said the quake “was a strong one, and it lasted quite a long time”.
The epicentre was between the towns of Finale Emilia, San Felice sul Panaro and Sermide, but the quake was felt as far away as Tuscany and northern Alto Adige.