Damage mounts in wake of Italian tremor | News | DW | 21.05.2012
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Damage mounts in wake of Italian tremor

Thousands of Italians were spending a second night in shelters, including cars and tent cities, throughout northeast Italy owing to a strong earthquake that killed six and caused massive damage in the region.

Sunday's 6.0-magnitude quake collapsed homes and historic buildings, sending thousands into the streets fearing for their lives.

It is believed many will remain in shelters for some time, either because their homes are damaged or because they are too traumatized to return.

#video#"We're worried we might be here a long time. Our house is more than 100 years old," said Maria, a pensioner, as she stood under an umbrella in the rain outside a large blue tent set up by the civil protection agency.

Six were killed in the quake, including four in collapsed factories. A 37-year-old German woman and another woman aged over 100 reportedly died from shock while about 50 others were injured.

Five thousand people are sleeping in various shelters, and those evacuated from hospitals are also being care for in temporary structures.

A 5.1-magnitude aftershock struck Sunday afternoon, triggering the collapse of more buildings that had been weakened in the original quake and boosting fears over safety.

Gas, water and electricity supplies had been cut in many areas and rubble and roof tiles still lay strewn in the streets of dozens of villages.

Damage is widespread

While the affected areas around Ferrara and Modena are known for being industrial, many architectural treasures have been affected by the tremors. Medieval castles, ancient churches and historic buildings have been reduced to rubble.

In Finale Emilia, where many of the tent cities have been erected, the town's clock tower was sliced in two by the quake. In Sant'Agostino the clock still reads 4:05 a.m., the time the tremor struck. The 16th Century chapel in San Carlo lost its roof, leaving historic relics inside to be subjected to the elements.

Giancarlo Rivelli, an engineer who has helped inspect some of the historic buildings, said: "There's damage to the psychological heritage here … People identify with these buildings. They're part of their life."

Apart from architectural treasures, the quake has also significantly affected the farming industry, to the tune of $254 million (198.9 million euros).

The Coldiretti Italian farm lobby, for example, said 400,000 wheels of Parmesan and Grana Padano cheese were damaged when their racks collapsed. Injured and killed livestock were also taken into account in the estimate.

Looking ahead

Italian officials have stressed a calm approach, and polls opened as normal on Monday for the second round of local elections.

The European Commission has pledged to offer support. We are "ready to provide swiftly any assistance that may be requested," said Jose Manual Barroso, the commission chief.

tm/slk (AP, AFP)