Thursday, May 24, 2012

Emilia–Romagna: 4 killed, thousands homeless in 6.0 quake

Associated Press - May 21, 2012

Sant'Agostino di Ferrara

[Right: The historic Modenesi's Towers of Finale Emilia, Italy, were destroyed by an earthquake that left thousands homeless; Photo: Roberto Serra/Iguana Press / Getty Images]

Four people died, dozens were injured and 3,000 were left homeless after a magnitude 6.0 earthquake shook several small towns in northeast Italy on Sunday.

Civil protection agency official Adriano Gumina described the temblor as the worst quake to hit the region since the 1300s. It struck at 4:04 a.m., with its epicenter about 22 miles north of Bologna at a relatively shallow depth of 3.2 miles, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The four people killed were factory workers on an overnight shift when their buildings, in three separate locations, collapsed, agency chief Franco Gabrielli said. In addition, he said, two women died - apparently of heart attacks that may have been caused by fear.

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," fellow worker Stefano Zeni said. News reports said one of the dead had worked the shift of an ill colleague.

Premier Mario Monti, in Chicago for the NATO summit, said he was returning to Italy before the meeting ends because of the quake.

[Left: Onlookers react to a quake that killed four factory workers in northeast Italy; Photo: Luca Bruno / Associated Press]

The quake struck in the farm region known for production of Parmigiano and Grana cheeses. Italy's farm lobby Coldiretti said about 200,000 huge, round cheeses were damaged, causing a loss to producers of $65 million.

In Sant'Agostino, resident Alberto Fiorini described "pandemonium" during the night. "I took shelter under the bed, and I prayed," he said.

The epicenter 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.

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.


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