Powerful earthquake hits northern Italy | News | DW | 20.05.2012
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Powerful earthquake hits northern Italy

At least six people have died and dozens more were injured by a 6.0-magnitude earthquake in northern Italy early on Sunday. The tremor caused extensive property damage in the historic region.

A powerful earthquake struck Italy's industrial and densely populated northeast early on Sunday, killing six people and injuring dozens. Homes, factories and churches around the historic city of Ferrara have been badly damaged, and it is feared that historic buildings have been badly affected.

"Italy is a very quake-prone country. What we can say is that 5.9 or 6.0 is the maximum strength there has ever been in these zones in the past," said Enzo Boschi, a well-regarded seismologist in Italy.

Rescue services said at least 50 were injured in the 6.0-magnitude quake, which struck around 4 a.m. local time (0200 GMT). The epicentre, according to authorities, was the commune of Finale Emilia, 36 kilometres (22 miles) north of Bologna.

The victims

Four people were killed in factory building collapses. Two of them died in a ceramics factory in Sant' Agostino, near the city of Ferrara, while a third died at a metal-working factory in the same area. The fourth was killed in an industrial area in the town of Ponte Rodoni di Bondeno.

A rescue worker patrols in front of a ceramics factory building which was damaged by the earthquake

The ceramics factory in Sant' Agostino was badly damaged by the quake

A 37-year-old German woman also died near Bologna. She reportedly suffered breathing difficulties, possibly brought on by a panic attack triggered by the earthquake.

A woman aged over 100 was also found dead in Sant' Agostino, according to news agency Ansa, possibly having died of shock.

At least 50 others were injured as a result of the quake.

Costly damage

Early footage from the area has shown half-collapsed houses and piles of rubble in the roads. Several church steeples and towers also partly collapsed.

The northern region shaken by the quake is Italy’s industrial heartland, but is also home to priceless architectural and art treasures. The historic centre of Ferrara, for example, is classified as a world heritage site.

tm/ccp (AFP, dpa)