Italy hit by another powerful quake
ROME: Italy’s most powerful earthquake in 36 years dealt a new blow yesterday to the country’s seismically vulnerable heart, sending terrified residents fleeing for the third time in nine weeks and flattening a revered six-century-old church.
Fabrizio Curcio, head of the national civil protection agency, said around a dozen people had been injured but that there did not appear to have been any fatalities.
“We are checking, there are several people injured but for the moment we have had no reports of victims,” Curcio said.
The quake struck at 7.40am (2.40pm in Malaysia) near the small central mountain town of Norcia, unleashing a shock felt in the capital Rome and even in Venice, 300km away.
It measured 6.6 on the socalled moment magnitude scale, according to US geologists, while Italian monitors estimated it at 6.5.
It was Italy’s biggest quake since a 6.9-magnitude events struck the south of the country in 1980, leaving 3,000 people dead.
Norcia’s 14th-century Basilica of Saint Benedict, built on the reputed birthplace of the Catholic saint, was reduced to rubble.
The church is looked after by an international community of Benedictine monks based in a local monastery which attracts some 50,000 pilgrims every year.
“It was like a bomb went off,” the town’s deputy mayor, Pierluigi Altavilla told Rai News 24.
“We are starting to despair. There are too many quakes now, we can’t bear it anymore.”
Visibly upset, some of the monks and other residents knelt in prayer before the ruins.
The basilica was inspected last week by experts from the ministry of culture and earmarked for structural repair work which could not be carried out.
Guiseppe Pezzanesi, mayor of Tolentino in the neighbouring Marche region, said the small town had “suffered our blackest day yet”.
“The damage is irreparable. There are thousands of people in the streets, terrified, crying.
“Let’s hope that is an end to it, the people are on their knees psychologically.” – AFP