By Stephen Jewkes | Reuters
A strong earthquake in northern Italy killed at least six people, injured dozens and damaged historic buildings including a famed mediaeval castle early on Sunday, waking terrified citizens and sending thousands running into the streets.
The quake, which the U.S. Geological Survey recorded at magnitude 6.0, struck at 4:04 a.m. (0204 GMT) and was followed by a series of jolting aftershocks. At least two of them reached magnitude 5.1, sowing fresh panic, further damaging already weakened buildings and causing more structures to collapse.
A Carabinieri paramilitary officer stands near a damaged car after a strong aftershock struck Finale Emilia May 20, 2012.
A damaged old tower is seen after an earthquake in Finale Emilia May 20, 2012. REUTERS/Giorgio Benvenuti
"I am 83 and I have never felt anything like this," said Lina Gardenghi in the town of Bondeno, near Ferrara.
The epicenter of Italy’s strongest quake in three years was near Modena in the Emilia-Romagna region of the Po valley. The tremors were more deadly than any since 2009 - when the central city of L’Aquila was devastated - and were felt as far away as regions bordering France in the west and Slovenia to the east.
Among the dead was a woman of 106, killed in her bed by a falling roof beam at her house in the countryside.
The tremors seriously damaged many historic churches and other buildings, adding up to the greatest loss to Italy’s artistic heritage since an earthquake in 1997 ravaged the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, where the ceiling collapsed.
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