Thousands of survivors of the earthquake in the Italian region of Emilia Romagna sought relief in tent cities as rescue workers surveyed the damage from the trembler that killed seven and injured dozens more.
The 5.9-magnitude quake at 4 a.m. yesterday near the town of Finale-Emilia in northern Italy toppled buildings across the region, including two factories where four workers were killed. Three women also died, including a 37-year-old German, the civil protection agency said. The quake was felt as far away as Milan and Venice and was followed by at least 170 aftershocks.
About 3,500 people were evacuated from their homes, many spending the night in their cars. Emergency response workers are erecting tent cities to shield the homeless from a cold rain that hit the area. In San Felice sul Panaro, where three towers of the town’s 15th-century castle collapsed, rescuers set up 40, eight-person tents and planned to have another 20 completed by the end of the day. About 120 slept in the town’s elementary school with more beds being put out for tonight.
“This is our new house guys, do you like it?” says Patrizia Battitta, showing her family the tent they have just been assigned. “It seems wonderful to me because now at least we have a roof over our heads. Look at us, we are hungry, dirty, tired. We slept in the car for two days in a row and I’m still shocked. The earthquake scared the heck out of me; the lights went out, everything was collapsing, the floor was covered with broken things, it was a nightmare.”
Prime Minister Mario Monti abandoned a NATO summit in Chicago early yesterday to return to Italy and lead his government’s response to the quake and to the May 19 bombing of a school in southern Italy that killed a 16-year-old student. Monti will attend the funeral of the bombing victim this afternoon.
“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 yesterday.
The earthquake came three years after a 6.3-magnitude trembler in 2009 killed more than 300 people and damaged thousands of buildings across the region of Abruzzo in central Italy. The earthquake will put further strain on the country’s emergency response services and could lead to higher costs for consumers. Monti’s government last month passed a law allowing for temporarily increasing gasoline taxes to finance responses to natural-disasters.
Vasco Errani, head of the Emilia-Romagna region, said it was too early to quantify the fallout from the quake, which damaged historic buildings across the area, including the cathedral of Mirandola, the roof of which collapsed. The Castello Estense in Ferrara was also damaged and a 5.1 magnitude aftershock sheared in two the Torre dei Modenesi, the medieval stone tower that forms part of the city hall in the town of Finale Emilia.
The quake caused damage estimated at more than 200 million euros ($255 million) for the agriculture industry in the region, trade association Coldiretti said in an e-mailed statement. The damage included the death of animals trapped in the rubble, the destruction off farm equipment and buildings and damage to 400,000 wheels of the country’s prized parmesan cheese. A 39 kilo wheel of the cheese aged for 24 months can retail for more than 700 euros.
Anna, who lives near San Felice and declined to give her last name, said she was woken by a loud boom and her bed was shaking. She grabbed her daughter and rushed out of the house and slept outside because she was too frightened to return to her home, she said.
The four workers who died 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 two workers died when the plant of Ceramica Sant’Agostino collapsed. The fourth was killed at a factory in Rodoni di Bondeno.
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.
Italy suffers about 2,000 earthquakes a year with more than 3 million people living in seismic areas, according to the National Council of Geologists. Almost half of Italy’s territory is at risk of a quake, with more than 6 million buildings in the affected seismic areas, the group said in an e-mailed statement.