One of the worst earthquakes to hit north-east Italy in hundreds of years rattled the region around Bologna early on Sunday, killing at least four people, collapsing factories and sending residents running out into the streets, emergency services said.
The magnitude 6.0 quake struck at 4.04 am, with its epicentre about 22 miles north of Bologna at a relatively shallow depth of 3.2 miles, the US Geological Survey said. Adriano Gumina, an official at the civil defence agency, said the quake was the worst in the region since the 1300s. It left bell towers cracked, parts of church facades lying in the streets and roofs caved in.
Franco Gabrielli, the agency chief, put the death toll at four – all factory workers on night shifts who died as buildings collapsed in three separate locations. Two women also died – apparently of heart attacks possibly caused by fear, shortly after the quake struck. Sky TG24 TV reported that one of the women was about 100 years old. Mr Gabrielli said "dozens" were injured, although it was too soon for a definitive count.
Two of the dead were workers at a ceramics factory in Sant'Agostino di Ferrara, who died when the cavernous building collapsed into a pile of rubble, leaving twisted metal supports jutting out at odd angles amid the mangled roof. "This is immense damage but the worst part is we lost two people," said fellow worker Stefano Zeni. News reports said one of the dead had worked the shift of an ill colleague. Elsewhere in the town, another worker was found dead under factory rubble.
In the town of Ponte Rodoni di Bondeno, a worker died as his factory collapsed, news reports said, quoting emergency workers.