6.0 Earthquake Rocks Northeast Italy

A magnitude-6.0 earthquake shook northeast Italy on Sunday morning.

FERRARA, ITALY - MAY 20:  The church of San Fe...

FERRARA, ITALY - MAY 20: The church of San Felice Sul Panaro is damaged following an earthquake on May 20, 2012 in Ferrara, Italy. At least four people were killed after the magnitude 6.0 quake - which destroyed many historic buildings - struck in the early hours. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

Striking at 4:04am with the epicentre about 35 kilometres to the north of Bologna, the quake has claimed the lives of at least seven people and injured dozens. The sheer level of destruction across the Emilia Romagna region has also left many homeless. More than 4,000 people have already been evacuated amid fears of aftershocks or fresh tremors.

The quake has also caused damage to some of the regions most historically significant buildings. The 15th-Century castle San Felice sul Panaro has been severely damaged while in Finale Emilia an ancient clock tower was damaged until a fresh tremor brought it down completely. The once historic church at Buonacompra now lies in ruins. The government has declared the damage to the area to be ‘significant’ – what has taken hundreds of years to build, only took minutes to come down. A shocking reminder of the awesome power of nature.

Tremors have also been felt in the cities of Bologna, Modena, Rovigo, Verona, Mantua, Milan and Venice.

What is most tragic is is the loss of life. In Saint’Agostino, two employees were killed when the ceramic factory they were working in collapsed on them. Over in Tecopress di Dosso a worker was killed when his factory roof collapsed on him. Another – believed to be a Moroccan national – was killed in Ponte Rodoni do Bondeno. The other deaths, of three women, were brought on as a result of illness from the tremors: a 37-year-old German National said to have suffered a heart attack and a centenarian and octogenarian.

The number of injuries is attributed to the early hour the earthquake struck and it is understood the aftershocks continued to roughly 5:50 a.m., but were not as long or dramatic as the main quake.

A local resident is quoted as saying: “I heard a big bang and I ran on the terrace, I was afraid of falling.”

Reports say people are choosing to sleep in tents, cars, or even the street rather than venture back into their homes.

The initial quake caused the church bells to “set off spontaneously,” this allowed residents to awaken and leave their homes to get to safety. The Italian culture minister, Lorenzo Ornaghi, has said that tens of millions will be required for the restoration.

Earthquakes in the Ferrara area are not uncommon. The last major quake to strike was in 1570 with 88 striking in the last 500 years (an average of one every 5 years). Scientific findings have shown seismic activity to have increased and an earthquake measuring 5.4 was felt in Parma back in January, but caused no injuries.

Pope Benedict XVI, giving his usual Sunday address, offered prayers for the victims. He also offered prayers for the victims of a bomb attack on a Brindisi high school which occurred the day before which he described as a “cowardly” act of “brutal violence”.



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