Italy quake kills 7; survivors huddle in tents, cars

Story highlights

  • Up to 11,000 displaced by quake; survivors huddle in tents, cars
  • At least seven dead, 50 injured in northern Italy quake
  • Italian PM cuts short NATO summit trip after earthquake
  • The USGS says the magnitude was 6.0

Thousands of survivors huddled in tents or in their cars under rainy skies early Monday following a weekend earthquake that killed seven people across northern Italy.

Aftershocks rattled the country's industrial heartland throughout Sunday evening following the magnitude-6.0 quake that struck around 4 a.m. (10 p.m. Saturday ET). The head of Italy's Civil Protection Department, Franco Gabrielli, said 11,000 people had been displaced after the quake, with the government putting 3,000 of them up in tents or hotels.

In Finale Emilia, about 35 km (21 miles) north of Bologna, 75 people were sleeping in cars in a public park. One of them was Filomenna Gatti, who planned to cram into a Fiat Punto with her husband and three children under 6.

"I close my eyes and I see stones falling and I feel the ground shaking when it's still," Gatti said as she walked her dog. "I don't want to be in any building."

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti was expected to return from the NATO summit in Chicago on Monday, his government announced Sunday. Monti annoucned Sunday he was leaving the conference early, vowing, "All that is necessary will be done as soon as possible" to help the survivors.

The quake was centered about 4 kilometers (2.4 miles) outside Camposanto, northwest of Bologna, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. In addition to the seven reported fatalities, 50 people were injured in the quake, Gabrielli said.

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The stricken region is part of Italy's industrial heartland, and the dead included two people killed in a ceramics factory in Sant'Agostino di Ferrara, about 30 km from the epicenter, civil protection agency spokeswoman Elisabetta Maffani said. Workers were still digging through rubble in hopes of finding survivors in Sant'Agostino, where the quake knocked down a church bell and a magnitude-4.8 aftershock brought down part of its city hall Sunday evening.

"We have just lost our history. Four generations of my family lived here, and now it's gone," 72-year-old Luciano Frendo said as he walked through Finale Emila. "Our history has collapsed."

The civil protection agency said it expects to get more reports of injuries as rescue workers make their way to remote villages in the mountainous area. Heavy rain was expected to continue into Tuesday after hampering rescue efforts and efforts to spot survivors from the air.

Other deaths included one person killed when a work shed collapsed in nearby Ponte Rodoni di Bondeno, Maffani said. In addition, a woman in Bologna died of a heart attack during an evacuation, a Moroccan national died when the factory he was working in collapsed and a sixth victim was found dead under rubble in Sant'Agostino, she said.

The body of a seventh victim was located under a collapsed house, according to Alessio Bellodi of the civil protection branch in Bologna.

The same area was struck by a 5.3-magnitude quake in January. And a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck near the central Italian city of L'Aquila, more than 400 km to the south, in 2009, killing more than 300 and causing widespread destruction.

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