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Fatal quake batters crisis-hit Italy

By Marzia De Giuli (Xinhua)

08:20, May 30, 2012

MODENA, Italy, May 29 (Xinhua) -- Death toll of the 5.8-magnitude earthquake which hit central-northern Italy on Tuesday rose to 16, as night fell on thousands Italians out of their homes.

One person is still missing and some 350 others were injured. A Chinese national was also reportedly killed in the area that is the home of some 5,000 Chinese citizens.

On Tuesday evening, a 65-year-old woman who was thought to be dead was extracted alive from rubbles in her house in Cavezzo, one of the several small towns in central-northern Emilia Romagna region that was shaken by the quake.

This is the second powerful tremor to hit Italy in just 10 days after another 5.9-magnitude quake killed at least seven people on May 20.

Many victims of Tuesday's earthquake were reportedly at work when the fatal tremor destroyed tens of sheds in the highly productive area.

"This terrible day begun at 9:02 (local time) in the morning. It had been a calm night, and I was in my office when everything begun to tremble so dreadfully that I could only imagine the worst consequence," said a young man from Novi, Maurizio Bertolini.

"And unfortunately, what I imagined was real. Our historic center was half destroyed. Some 7,000 residents will sleep in tents or in their cars," he told Xinhua.

In a nearby town, a parish priest was reportedly killed as he was trying to carry out a small statue out of his church. Another man died after he was hit by a chimney that fell down.

Many historic buildings collapsed in various towns led to significant cultural and artistic losses, while railway and highway circulation was temporarily blocked for safety reasons.

"Everything will be re-built, our region will not be left alone as the entire country will show a high solidarity," Vasco Errani, head of the Emilia Romagna region, said after meeting Prime Minister Mario Monti in Rome.

President Giorgio Napolitano, meanwhile, reassured the Italians that "the country will soon overcome this moment."

Italy's civil protection estimated at least 14,000 people have been displaced, but the real figure could be much higher, as the entire population of towns in the quake area were ready to spend the night in tents, at relatives' homes or inside cars.

"I am terrified at the idea of sleeping at home," said Helga Canova, a resident of Concordia sulla Secchia. She noted the area was considered not at risk of strong quakes until a few years ago.

"Then this estimation was revised, but many industrial sheds had already been built in the past years," she told Xinhua.

Several smaller aftershocks above magnitude 4.0 were recorded on Tuesday after hundreds of tremors had already been counted in the past few days. Local analysts warned the "sequence" has not finished yet, and may continue for weeks or even months.

Tremor was also felt in various cities across northern Italy such as Venice and Milan, where many residential buildings and offices were evacuated, and people poured out from their homes.

Schools and offices will stay close in the next days, while a friendly football match between Italy and Luxembourg scheduled to take place in nearby Parma on Tuesday evening was called off.

The country will hold a day of mourning for the victims on June 2.


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