16 die as 2d large quake strikes Italian region

Two firefighters and a dog search for possible survivors in the debris of a collapsed house in the northern Italian town of Cavezzo.
Two firefighters and a dog search for possible survivors in the debris of a collapsed house in the northern Italian town of Cavezzo. (MARCO VASINI / Associated Press)

Factories and churches fell just nine days after an earlier temblor had hit Emilia Romagna.

Posted: May 30, 2012

SAN FELICE SUL PANARO, Italy - Workers at the small machinery company had just returned for their first shift after Italy's powerful and deadly quake earlier this month when another one struck Tuesday morning, collapsing the roof.

At least three employees at the factory - two immigrants and an Italian engineer checking the building's stability - were among those killed in the second deadly quake in nine days to strike a region of Italy that hadn't considered itself particularly quake prone.

By late Tuesday, the death toll stood at 16, with one person missing: a worker at the machinery factory in the small town of San Felice Sul Panaro. About 350 people also were injured in the 5.8 magnitude quake north of Bologna in Emilia Romagna, one of Italy's more productive regions, agriculturally and industrially.

The injured included a 65-year-old woman who was pulled out alive by rescuers after lying for 12 hours in the rubble of her apartment's kitchen in Cavezzo, another town hard hit by the quake. Firefighters told Sky TG24 TV that a piece of furniture, which had toppled over, saved her from being crushed by the wreckage. She was taken to a hospital for treatment.

The building had been damaged in the first quake, which killed seven people on May 20, and had been vacant since. The woman had just gone back inside it Tuesday morning to retrieve some clothes when the latest temblor knocked down the building, firefighters said.

Factories, barns, and churches fell, dealing a second blow to a region where thousands remained homeless from the May 20 temblor, stronger in intensity at 6.0 magnitude.

The two quakes struck one of the most productive regions in Italy at a particularly crucial moment, as the country faces enormous pressure to grow its economy to stave off Europe's debt crisis. Italy's economic growth has been stagnant for at least a decade, and the national economy is forecast to contract 1.2 percent this year.

The area encompassing the cities of Modena, Mantua, and Bologna is prized for its car production, churning out Ferraris, Maseratis, and Lamborghinis; its world-famous Parmesan cheese; and its machinery companies.

Like the May 20 quake, many of the dead in Tuesday's temblor were workers inside huge warehouses, many of them prefabricated, that house factories. Inspectors have been determining which are safe to reenter, but economic pressure has sped up renewed production - perhaps prematurely.

Premier Mario Monti, tapped to steer the country from financial ruin in November, pledged that the government would quickly provide help to the area "that is so special, so important, and so productive for Italy."

The quake was felt from Piedmont in northwestern Italy to Venice in the northeast and as far north as Austria. Dozens of aftershocks hit the area, some registering more than 5.0 in magnitude.

The temblor terrified many of the thousands of people who have been living in tents or cars since the May 20 quake and created a whole new wave of homeless.

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