TEN people were reported dead and others were missing under rubble following a 5.8-magnitude earthquake in northern Italy last night, just 10 days after a similar quake killed seven and left thousands homeless.
The quake struck at 9.03am local time about 40 kilometres north-west of Bologna at a depth of 9.6 kilometres. The epicentre was the town of Medolla near the city of Modena but the quake was felt as far away as Venice, Florence and Genoa, and as far north as Austria.
People fled into the streets and shops and businesses were evacuated in Bologna, Corriere della Sera reported, and in Pisa. The tremor hit after most people had left home for work.
Buildings collapsed in several towns that were badly hit by the first quake – Mirandola, Finale Emilia, San Felice and Cavezzo. The mayor of San Felice, Alberto Silvestri, told Sky TV he feared further victims would be found under rubble. There were reports a tower had collapsed in the town.
Chris Brewerton, who lives in Mantua, 36 kilometres north of Modena, told the BBC that when the quake struck, “the chair starts shaking and there’s a feeling of waves below me. I rush out into the garden; the shutters and garage door are banging, the ground below me swaying. It lasted about 15 seconds – it was frightening.”
The Prime Minister, Mario Monti – who had been in a meeting with emergency officials in Rome discussing the earlier quake when this one hit – said the government would 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 first quake, on May 20, with a magnitude of 6, caused at least ?250 million ($318 million) of damage to farms in the Po valley area, a local farmers’ organisation estimated. As farm buildings, homes, sheds and machinery collapsed, ?100 million worth of Parmesan cheese was destroyed.
Italian officials said it was the worst earthquake to hit the area since the 1300s. It was the worst to hit Italy since the devastation at L’Aquila in 2009, where 300 people died.
Last night calls to emergency services overloaded the phone system in some areas, and train services were halted in parts of northern Italy so that tracks could be checked.
About 7000 people who fled their homes after the first quake are living in about 100 tent camps set up in fields, sports grounds, car parks and schools. The region has been hit by more than 200 aftershocks since May 20.
First published on smh.com.au