At least 15 people died and 12 were missing yesterday after the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna was struck by a powerful earthquake, the second to hit the area in just ten days.
Yesterday's 5.8-magnitude tremor caused buildings to collapse across the region, leaving more than 200 people injured and an estimated 14,000 homeless. The epicentre of the earthquake, which struck at 9am local time, was in the province of Modena, about 22 miles north-west of Bologna.
However, the shock was felt throughout northern Italy, with terrified people fleeing homes, schools and offices as far away as Milan and Venice. Train lines connecting Bologna with other cities were halted while authorities checked for damage. It was announced that schools in the city would remain closed tomorrow as a precaution.
Premier Mario Monti promised state aid for affected regions. "I guarantee that the state will do everything that it has to do, that it is possible to do, to ensure this very special, important and productive region for Italy can return to its normal life in a short period of time," he said.
While the quake was weaker than the one on 20 May, its death toll was more than twice as high. In both tremors workers died in collapsing factories and warehouses. And the region's many medieval buildings were badly hit. Yesterday, in the town of Mirandola, near the epicentre, the church of San Francis crumbled, leaving only its façade standing. The main cathedral was also badly damaged. Elsewhere, it was reported that a priest had died after his church collapsed. The Sant'Agostino town hall, so damaged in the 20 May quake that it looked as if it had been bombed, virtually collapsed when the latest tremor struck.
Italy's National Institute of Geophysics said yesterday's quake was relatively shallow, occurring less than 10 miles below the ground. One of its seismologists, Dr Alessandro Amato, warned that aftershocks would probably continue "for several days".