Italy suffers second fatal earthquake in 10 days


FOR THE second time in 10 days, the region of Emilia Romagna was struck yesterday by a devastating earthquake.

The quake killed 16 people, injured about 350 and left another 8,000 homeless. Last week’s quake killed seven and left some 6,000 people homeless.

The earthquake registered a 5.8 magnitude on the Richter scale, as opposed to 6.0 last week. Experts believe the higher death toll had more to do with the timing of the quake than with its strength.

Last week’s quake had struck at 4am on a quiet Sunday morning; yesterday’s came at 9am, as factories and workplaces were opening for business.

It also seems probable that many of those killed yesterday found themselves caught up in the collapse of buildings which had already been damaged or weakened a week ago.

People in high-rise buildings as far away as Bolzano, Milan and Genoa claimed that they had felt yesterday’s tremor.

Yet again, the Emilia Romagna region appears to have suffered serious industrial and architectural losses, with another 550,000 Parmigiano (Parmesan) cheeses being damaged by the collapse of agricultural buildings and with a wide variety of listed buildings either collapsing or suffering severe damage.

This earthquake appeared to take up where last week’s tremors had ended, in some cases literally finishing off already endangered buildings.

On that subject, the leader of Italy’s largest trade union, the CGIL, Susanna Camusso questioned the wisdom of reopening many of the factories in what is one of Italy’s most productive and innovative industrial regions

“The fact that workers are dying again in these new shocks makes me think that the factories were not made safe before people were sent back to work,” Ms Camusso said. As always in situations like this in Italy, yesterday witnessed nationwide solidarity, with volunteer workers from the Civil Protection, from Caritas, from the Red Cross and from NGOs from all around Italy making their way to Emilia Romagna.

As always, too, the tragedy registered a number of poignant stories. In the little town of Rovereto sul Secchia, parish priest Fr Ivo Martini was killed when he was hit by a falling beam in his own church. Fr Martini had reportedly gone to the church to assess earlier quake damage and also to attempt to salvage a statute of the Madonna.

This earthquake is sure to see the numbers of those left homeless increase.

Many people in the earthquake-struck areas had already expressed a reluctance to return to their homes, many of which are still standing, preferring instead to sleep in Civil Protection tented villages which have been set up in sports complexes and town parks throughout the region.

The latest events will only confirm the wisdom of their decision not to return home.

It remains unclear whether this earthquake was simply another of the many sharp after-tremors that have been felt throughout the region for the last week.

While the Civil Protection head Franco Gabrielli, argued that this was “a new earthquake”, the Italian Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology issued a statement last night in which it claimed that the tremor was caused by the same fault line as that which had provoked last week’s quake.

Further controversy was prompted by Giampaolo Giuliani, the scientist whose predictions of a earthquake went unheeded in L’Aquila three years ago.

Dr Giuliani claimed that throughout last week there had been serious signs that another heavy earthquake was on the way in the region.

Institute experts last night disagreed, arguing that at the moment there was no reliable system for predicting an earthquake.

Italy’s pre-Euro 2012 warm-up game with Luxembourg in Parma, Emilia, was cancelled “as a mark of respect” for the dead. Likewise, schools and universities all over the region will remain closed today.