Italy quake leaves 15,000 without homes

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[BBC] – Italy’s most powerful earthquake since 1980 has left more than 15,000 people homeless, according to the country’s civil protection agency. No-one was killed in Sunday’s quake but 20 people were injured and there is extensive damage in and around Norcia.

The 6.6-magnitude quake struck near the central region where nearly 300 people were killed by a quake in August. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is due to chair a meeting of his cabinet to discuss emergency reconstruction.

Mr Renzi said that Italy’s soul was unsettled. It was an “enormous relief” that no-one had died this time, he added. The earthquake struck on Sunday morning, destroying buildings or rendering them structurally unsafe in several towns and villages in the mountainous central region.quake-2

Many of those affected are living with relatives or friends, but the civil protection agency said it was providing assistance to 15,000, with 10,000 accommodated in tents and converted sports halls. Thousands spent the night in their cars or under canvas. Hotels on the Adriatic coast are sheltering some 4,000.

More than 100 aftershocks were registered overnight into Monday, including one of magnitude 4.2. Tremors from the latest earthquake were felt in the capital Rome, more than 100km (60 miles) away from the epicentre near the historic town of Norcia.

The Rome metro system was closed on Sunday; an early 20th Century bridge, Ponte Mazzini, has been shut to traffic after cracks appeared; and a crack was visible on the facade of St Paul’s Basilica, one of the four principal papal churches. In Norcia, in the Umbria region, locals have been demanding tents rather than moving out of the town. Some decided to stay in their homes.

Norcia resident Stefano Boldrini, who is now living in a van with his eight-year-old daughter, was asked if they planned to stay in the area.

“How could we? There’s no more school, or church, or police station. There’s nothing here any more,” he said.

The medieval basilica of St Benedict in Norcia was among many historic buildings destroyed. An evacuation of vulnerable buildings in central Italy last week, following strong aftershocks from August’s quake, may have saved lives. Officials said three people were dug out of the rubble alive in the town of Tolentino on Sunday.

Sunday’s quake – 6.6 as measured by the US Geological Survey – came on top of August’s quake and two last week of magnitude 5.5 and 6.1. Other towns and villages to have suffered damage include Castelsantangelo, Preci, Ussita and Arquata.

Central Italy has seen several major quakes in recent years. Earthquakes which devastated the town of L’Aquila in 2009 and Amatrice in August this year killed about 300 people each. But they both measured 6.2 and were deeper than Sunday’s earthquake.