Italian earthquake kills six and leaves over 3,000 homeless
A powerful earthquake struck northern Italy in the early hours of yesterday morning, killing at least six people, leading to at least 3,000 people fleeing their homes and reducing medieval castles, churches and clock towers to rubble.
The 6.0 magnitude earthquake hit at around 4am in the Emilia Romagna region between the historic cities of Bologna, Modena and Ferrara -- the latter a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The quake was almost as powerful as one that devastated the central region of Abruzzo in 2009, killing more than 300 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless.
Although there were far fewer casualties yesterday, the quake was felt as far away as Venice, the German-speaking South Tyrol region of far northern Italy and the Friuli region on the border with Slovenia.
Witness told how thousands of panic-stricken residents ran out into the streets in their pyjamas and nightclothes, as statues crashed down from centuries-old palazzi and the roofs of churches collapsed.
"They were 20 to 30 seconds of sheer terror -- everything was trembling and shaking," said Clarissa Dal Bello (20), a law student, who was in bed in her shared fifth-floor flat in Ferrara when the quake hit, said last night.
Mario Monti, the prime minister, said he would return home early from the G8 summit in Chicago.
The Italian cabinet is expected to declare a state of emergency for the region when it meets today.
Four of the victims, including a 29-year-old Moroccan immigrant, were night-shift workers who died when the roofs of factories caved in.
The other two were women who apparently died of heart attacks or other forms of shock -- an Italian woman aged over 100 and a 37-year-old German who was living and working near Bologna.
An imposing 14th century castle in the town of San Felice Sul Panaro was badly damaged, its battlements and towers crumbling into dust.
"We have lost virtually all our cultural heritage," said Alberto Silvestri, the mayor of the town.
The quake is the biggest blow to Italy's cultural heritage since 1997 when an earthquake badly damaged the Basilica of St Francis of Assisi in Umbria.
(© Daily Telegraph, London)