Prime Minister Mario Monti abandoned a NATO summit and returned to Italy yesterday to lead his government’s response to a fatal earthquake and attend the funeral of a 16-year-old victim of a terror bombing.
“I want to offer my support and condolences and that of my government to all the families of the victims and all the people that have been affected by this quake that is once again testing the region of Emilia-Romagna,” Monti told journalists in Chicago.
Monti left the summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization following the opening session after being informed of a 5.9-magnitude earthquake in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna that killed seven people and forced 3,400 people to evacuate their homes, according to the country’s civil protection agency. The quake came a day after a bomb was detonated outside a school in Brindisi, in the south of the country.
Monti plans to attend the funeral today of Melissa Bassi, the high-school student killed in the blast. Investigators said yesterday they don’t think the bombing was linked to organized crime. No one has claimed the attack. Newspapers today carried photos from a surveillance video that allegedly shows the bomber who was watching the children enter the school when he pushed the detonator.
Before leaving Chicago, Monti said his Cabinet would meet today to declare a state of emergency in the earthquake zone, which has been hit by a series of aftershocks since the initial temblor at 4 a.m. yesterday. The government gave Franco Gabrielli, head of the civil protection agency, the power to coordinate the rescue operation.
Four of the victims were killed when the factory buildings they were working in collapsed in the provinces of Ferrara and Bologna, the civil protection agency said, adding that 50 people were injured. One worker died at Tecopress, a company that produces castings and has Bayerische Motoren Werke AG and Volkswagen AG among its clients, while three workers died when the plant of Ceramice Sant’Agostino collapsed, newspaper Corriere della Sera reported. Three women were also killed by the quake.
Ferrari SpA, whose headquarters are 60 kilometers (38 miles) away from the epicenter of the quake, didn’t suffer any damage, a spokesman for the luxury carmaker said.
The earthquake struck in Finale Emilia, near Bologna, at a depth of 6.3 kilometers, the civil protection agency said on its website. The quake, which was felt from Milan to Venice, damaged historic buildings, including the cathedral of Mirandola, the roof of which collapsed. The Castello Estense in Ferrara was also damaged. There have been more than 100 aftershocks, including a 5.1 magnitude tremor that caused the collapse of the Torre dei Modenesi, the medieval stone tower that forms part of the city hall in the town of Finale Emilia.
A 6.3-magnitude quake in 2009 killed more than 300 people and damaged or destroyed thousands of buildings across the region of Abruzzo in central Italy.
Yesterday’s earthquake caused damage estimated at more than 50 million euros ($64 million) for agricultural companies in the region, trade association Coldiretti said in an e-mailed statement.
The Bologna-Verona rail line was temporarily shut while checks were made, Italy’s state railway company Trenitalia said on its website. Trains are now running regularly on the Padova-Bologna line. No damage was reported on highways, Autostrade per l’Italia said on its website.