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San Felice Sul Panaro - Thousands of people huddled outdoors in north-eastern Italy after the region’s second killer earthquake in less than two weeks and officials warned of more aftershocks.
Tuesday’s quake killed at least 16 people and injured 200 just nine days after another temblor killed six people and left thousands homeless.
Residents in cities including Pisa and Venice rushed into the streets in panic when the quake struck 60km east of Parma on Tuesday morning.
Just a few hours later, already shaken residents endured a terrifying five-minute ordeal when the region was struck by three tremors of between 5.1 and over 5.3-magnitude.
By nightfall authorities said one person remained missing.
Workers at a destroyed precision mechanics factory near Modena where three of their colleagues died, told of how they ran for their lives as the ground shook beneath them, ripping the building in two and sending masonry crashing to the ground.
“Everything happened so fast, in about seven to eight seconds. I ran out carrying the piece I was working on and I saw everything crumble,” said one worker.
As the dust began to settle in the moments after the quake, those who had made it to safety realised that three people – an Italian, as well as an Indian and a Moroccan – had been killed in the collapse.
One of the two victims had been living in a tent at a camp since the earlier 6.0-magnitude quake on May 20.
“Everything’s collapsed, it’s chaos, buildings across the town are down,” a fireman in the tiny town of Cavezzo told reporters earlier.
Authorities in the Emilia Romagna region said more than 5 000 people had been evacuated from their homes and emergency places arranged for 4 000 homeless.
“Last night was the first night we’d spent back in our homes after the first quake. Then another one hit,” one resident said in Sant’Agostino, scattered with buildings with gaping holes in their sides.
Among the quake victims was a parish priest in the town of Rovereto di Novi who was killed by a falling beam, reportedly after he went back into his church to save a statue of the Madonna.
Authorities have registered at least 800 tremors since May 20. – Sapa-AFP