A powerful earthquake killed at least 15 people and left 200 injured yesterday as it rocked a swath of northern Italy. Factories, warehouses and churches collapsed, dealing a second blow to a region where thousands are still homeless from another temblor just nine days ago.
The 5.8 magnitude quake left 14,000 people homeless in the Emilia Romagna region north of Bologna, one of Italy’s most agriculturally and industrially productive areas.
It was felt from Piedmont in northwestern Italy to Venice in the northeast and as far north as Austria. Dozens of aftershocks hit the area, some registering more than magnitude 5.0. The temblor terrified many of the thousands who have been living in tents or cars since the May 20 quake and created a whole new wave of homeless.
“I was shaving and I ran out very fast, half dressed,” a resident of Sant’Agostino, one of the towns devastated in the quake earlier this month, told AP Television News.
Yesterday’s quake struck just after 9am with an epicenter 40km northwest of Bologna, according to the US Geological Survey — just a handful of kilometers away from where the magnitude 6.0 quake that killed seven people on May 20 was centered.
Government undersecretary Antonio Catricala, briefing the Senate in Rome, said at least 15 people were killed, some 200 injured and seven people missing. The number of homeless swelled by several thousand, to a total of 14,000, he said.
While yesterday’s quake was about 100 times less intense than the one May 20, its death toll was more than twice as high. In both, the dead included workers killed by collapsing factories and warehouses.
In the town of Mirandola, near the epicenter, the church of San Francis crumbled, leaving only its facade standing. The main cathedral also collapsed.
Sant’Agostino’s town hall, so damaged in the May 20 quake that it looked as if it had been bombed, virtually collapsed when the latest deadly temblor struck.
In a hastily called news conference, Italian Prime Minister Premier Mario Monti pledged the government will do “all that it must and all that is possible in the briefest period to guarantee the resumption of normal life in this area that is so special, so important and so productive for Italy.”
The region around Bologna is among the country’s most productive. Italy is desperately in need of its industries, for the country is in the midst of another recession and struggling to tame its massive debt as the European debt crisis worsens.