Horror of Italy quake

A damaged old tower is seen after an earthquake in Finale Emilia.

A damaged old tower is seen after an earthquake in Finale Emilia.

Published May 21, 2012


Torn in half, this is the precarious remnant of a medieval bell tower that stood for 700 years in testimony to Italy’s historic and cultural heritage.

The 13th century Torre dei Modenesi was ripped apart by an earthquake which struck in the early hours yesterday, killing at least six and injuring 50. It later collapsed completely after a strong aftershock.

In the town of Finale Emilia, as well as the bell tower, the 11th century Castello delle Rocche was damaged and the 14th century Palazzo dei Veneziani partially collapsed.

Mayor Fernando Ferioli was in tears as he said: “It’s terrible - a thousand years of history gone in just a few seconds.”

The tremor, which measured 6.0 on the Richter scale, was the worst to hit north-east Italy since the 1300s.

Among the dead was a woman of 103, killed in her bed by a falling roof beam, and four factory workers who were on nightshifts. The quake has caused significant damage to the country’s historic buildings, the government said. Churches, castles, palaces and frescos have been destroyed.

Buildings of architectural importance severely damaged include a 15th-century castle in the Roman citadel of San Felice sul Panaro and Sant Agostino’s Renaissance town hall.

Alberto Silvestri, mayor of San Felice sul Panaro, said: “We have lost practically all our artistic patrimony. Churches and towers have collapsed.”

The 20-second earthquake struck at 4.04am around 20 miles north of Bologna, centred on the historic town of Modena, home to the Ferrari car firm and the late opera star Luciano Pavarotti.

The area is noted for its culinary specialities, which include Parmesan cheese and Parma ham.

Hundreds of terrified residents fled their homes and hospitals were evacuated.

The first quake was followed by an aftershock of 5.1 around 12 hours later. Tremors were felt in Milan and Venice, and as far away as the regions bordering France in the west and Slovenia to the east.Officials from the Consorzio Grana Padana and Parmigiano, which supervises the production of Parmesan, said that at least 300 000 wheels of cheese had been destroyed at a cost of more than £200 million.

British journalist Frankie Thompson, who was in Bologna, said: “I was woken at around 4am by the quake. Church bells were set off spontaneously, followed by an eerie silence.”

Pope Benedict XVI, in his traditional Sunday appearance from St Peter’s Square at the Vatican in Rome, prayed for mercy for the dead and relief for the injured. - Daily Mail

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