Deadly quake hits northern Italy
Three thousand people in northern Italy bedded down in tents or temporary accommodation on Sunday night after a strong earthquake in the early hours killed five people, injured scores more and toppled centuries-old churches and clock towers.
Aftershocks in the Emilia-Romagna region continued to bring down damaged buildings during the day, injuring a firefighter, as emergency services scrambled to find temporary shelter for residents afraid to return home.
"Right now our absolute priority is for people to spend the night in acceptable conditions," said civil protection chief Franco Gabrielli. With storms forecast for the area, the Italian government was due to meet on Tuesday to consider declaring a state of emergency.
The 6.0 magnitude earthquake, which struck the Emilia-Romagna region 3.2 miles below ground at 4.04am, was felt across northern Italy, from Liguria to the Veneto, and was described by one official as the worst in the area since the 1300s. The last serious earthquake to strike Italy was the 6.3 scale shock in L'Aquila in 2009 which killed nearly 300.
"There's nothing to be done," said Valeria Balboni, standing amid shattered glass in her family's bathroom fittings factory near Sant'Agostino. "We're going to have to close, like so many of the others."
The earthquake left major towns such as Bologna unscathed but wrought havoc in small towns and villages dotting the countryside between Bologna, Ferrara and Modena.
In San Felice sul Panaro, the tops of several towers of a 14th-century castle collapsed while fresco-filled churches in the town were seriously damaged.
"We have practically lost all our artistic patrimony," said mayor Alberto Silvestri.
In Finale Emilia, the historic Palazzo dei Veneziani partly collapsed and 11 residents survived after knocking down a wall to escape.
The Castello delle Rocche in the town was also damaged while a clock tower was split down the middle, with one side disintegrating into rubble before the remaining side collapsed during an aftershock.
"A thousand years of history disappears just like that," said mayor Fernando Ferioli.