Central Italy was rocked by a powerful earthquake early Sunday morning. This is another in a series of signs of the approaching end of the age. These things will grow in both frequency and intensity as that day draws nearer,
Over 90 dead, 1,500 injured in central Italy quake
Apr 6, 12:45 PM (ET)
By MARTA FALCONI
L’AQUILA, Italy (AP) – A powerful earthquake in mountainous central
Italy knocked down whole blocks of buildings early Monday as residents
slept, killing more than 90 people in the country’s deadliest quake in
nearly three decades. Tens of thousands were homeless and 1,500 were
Ambulances screamed through the medieval city of L’Aquila as
firefighters with dogs and a crane worked feverishly to reach people
trapped in fallen buildings, including a university dormitory where
half a dozen students were believed still inside.
Outside the half-collapsed building, part of the University of
L’Aquila, tearful young people huddled together, wrapped in blankets,
some still in their slippers after being roused from sleep by the
quake. Dozens managed to escape as the dorm walls fell around them but
hours after the quake, a body of a male student was pulled from the
“We managed to come down with other students but we had to sneak
through a hole in the stairs as the whole floor came down,” said
student Luigi Alfonsi, 22. “I was in bed – it was like it would never
end as I heard pieces of the building collapse around me.”
“There was water gushing out of broken water pipes, and the corridor
which led to the stairs was partially blocked when a piece of the wall
came down,” Alfonsi, his eyes filling with tears and his hands
trembling, told The Associated Press.
The quake has also taken a severe toll on the city’s prized
architectural heritage. L’Aquila was built as a mountain stronghold
during the Middle Ages and has many prized Romanesque, Gothic and
Parts of many of the ancient churches and castles in and around the
city have collapsed. Centuries-old churches in many isolated villages
in the area are believed partly collapsed, and damage to ancient
monuments has been reported as far as Rome.
L’Aquila, capital of the Abruzzo region, was near the epicenter about
70 miles (110 kilometers) northeast of Rome. It is a quake-prone
region that has had at least nine smaller jolts since the beginning of
April. The quake struck at 3:32 a.m. The U.S. Geological Survey said
the big quake was magnitude 6.3, but Italy’s National Institute of
Geophysics put it at 5.8 and more than a dozen aftershocks followed.
At least 91 deaths have been confirmed. The latest toll was announced
to parliament in a briefing to lawmakers.
More than 70 people were killed and the death toll was likely to rise,
civil protection chief Guido Bertolaso said as rescue crews clawed
through the debris of fallen homes. Some 1,500 people were injured.
The quake hit 26 towns and cities around L’Aquila, which lies in a
valley surrounded by the Apennine mountains. Castelnuovo, a hamlet of
about 300 people 15 miles (25 kilometers) southeast of L’Aquila,
appeared hard hit, and five were confirmed dead there. Another small
town, Onno, was almost leveled.
“A few houses have remained standing, but just a few,” Stefania
Pezzopane, provincial president of L’Aquila, told Corriere della Sera.
Rescue workers in Onna, population about 250, said the town was
virtually deserted as survivors sought shelter elsewhere.
The four-star, 133-room hotel Hotel Duca degli Abruzzi in L’Aquila’s
historic center was heavily damaged but still standing and it was not
known if there were any casualties, said Ornella De Luca of the
national civil protection agency in Rome. “The information is very
fragmentary,” she said.
L’Aquila Mayor Massimo Cialente said about 100,000 people were
homeless. It was not clear if the mayor’s estimate included
surrounding towns. Some 10,000 to 15,000 buildings were either damaged
or destroyed, officials said.
Premier Silvio Berlusconi declared a state of emergency, freeing up
federal funds to deal with the disaster, and canceled a visit to
Russia so he could deal with the quake crisis.
Condolences poured in from around the world, including from President
Barack Obama, Pope Benedict XVI and Abdullah Gul, president of
Slabs of walls, twisted steel supports, furniture and wire fences were
strewn about the streets of L’Aquila, and gray dust carpeted
sidewalks, cars and residents.
Residents and rescue workers hauled away debris from collapsed
buildings by hand or in an assembly lines, passing buckets.
Firefighters pulled a woman covered in dust from the debris of her
four-story home. Rescue crews demanded quiet as they listened for
signs of life from other people believed still trapped inside.
Elsewhere, a man dressed only in his underwear wept as he was pulled
from the debris and embraced.
A body lay on the sidewalk, covered by a white sheet.
Parts of L’Aquila’s main hospital were evacuated because they were at
risk of collapse, and only two operating rooms were in use. Bloodied
victims waited in hospital hallways or in the courtyard and many were
being treated in the open. A field hospital was being set up.
In the dusty streets, as aftershocks rumbled through, residents hugged
one another, prayed quietly or frantically tried to call relatives.
Residents covered in dust pushed carts full of clothes and blankets
that they had thrown together before fleeing their homes.
“We left as soon as we felt the first tremors,” said Antonio
D’Ostilio, 22, as he stood on a street in L’Aquila with a huge
suitcase piled with clothes. “We woke up all of a sudden and we
immediately ran downstairs in our pajamas.”
Evacuees converged on an athletics field on the outskirts of L’Aquila
where a makeshift tent camp was being set up. Civil protection
officials distributed bread and water to people who lay on the grass
next to heaps of their belongings.
“It’s a catastrophe and an immense shock,” said resident Renato Di
Stefano, who was moving with his family to the camp as a precaution.
“It’s struck in the heart of the city, we will never forget the pain.”
The Culture Ministry said a wall of the 13th century Santa Maria di
Collemaggio church collapsed and the bell tower of the Renaissance San
Bernadino church also fell. The 16th century castle housing the
Abruzzo National Museum was damaged.
This was Italy’s deadliest quake since Nov. 23, 1980, when one
measuring 6.9-magnitude hit southern regions, leveling villages and
causing some 3,000 deaths.
Many modern structures in Italy over recent decades have failed to
hold up to the rigors of quakes along Italy’s mountainous spine, or in
coastal cities like Naples. Despite warnings by geologists and
architects, some of these buildings have not been retrofitted in terms
of seismic safety.
Pezzopane, the provincial president, said residents may have been
lulled into complacency because so many smaller quakes had jolted the
area, including two or three earlier in the night.
“Considering what happened, a bit more concern, more attention might
have saved lives,” she said.
National officials insisted no quake can ever be predicted and that no
evacuation could have been ordered on the basis of the recent jolts.
“There is no possibility of making any predictions on earthquakes.
This is a fact in the world’s scientific community,” Civil protection
chief Guido Bertolaso told reporters.
The last major quake to hit central Italy was a 5.4-magnitude temblor
that struck the south-central Molise region on Oct. 31, 2002, killing
28 people, including 27 children who died when their school collapsed.
Source: AP via My WayNews