16 confirmed dead in Italy earthquake

16 confirmed dead in Italy earthquake

Rescue officials in Italy said late Tuesday that 16 people had been confirmed dead while one person was listed as missing in the 5.8-magnitude earthquake that struck the northern region of Emilia Romagna, DPA reported.

The National Civil Protection Agency in figures said 350 people were injured. Earlier, seven people were listed as unaccounted for.

A 65-year-old woman who had been previously listed as missing was pulled alive from the rubble of her home, 12 hours after the quake struck, state television RAI reported. The rescue operation took place in Cavezzo near Modena, one of the worst hit-areas.

The woman was trapped while she was collecting some belongings from the building, which had been abandoned after it was damaged in a devastating earthquake that struck the region on May 20.

The earlier earthquake, which measured 6 magnitude, claimed seven lives and left more than 5,000 people homeless.

Earlier Tuesday, government undersecretary Antonio Catricala said Prime Minister Mario Monti planned to declare June 4 a national day of mourning for Emilia Romagna. The number of newly homeless stood at 8,000, Catricala told Parliament.

"Many people were so afraid that they were refusing to return to their homes, even if these had not been damaged," Civil Protection agency chief Franco Gabrielli told RAI.

Monti's cabinet was expected to meet Wednesday to decide on a series of emergency relief measures for the area, Catricala said.

Tuesday's quake struck at 9 am (0700 GMT). Its centre was registered at Mirandola near Modena.

The new quake was followed by several aftershocks, at least two of which topped magnitude 5, according to Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology.

The dead included a parish priest and workers in factories that collapsed.

In the collapse of a factory in San Felice Panaro, three people died including a 27-year-old Indian national and another worker from Morocco. The third person who died at the factory was an Italian engineer who had been carrying out an inspection to assess the building's structural solidity following the May 20 earthquake, the ANSA news agency reported.

"I invite all citizens to have faith. The commitment of the state aims to guarantee that everything will take place in the best and most efficient way," Monti said in Rome.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said Pope Benedict XVI felt "great pain" for the deaths and injuries.

The Italian football federation cancelled a friendly match between Italy and Luxembourg in nearby Reggio Emilia. Carmaker Ferrari, whose Maranello factory is located in the region, said it had suspended all work activities following the earthquake.

Tuesday's main aftershock was "part of a sequence" that has hit the region since the first earthquake hit Emilia Romagna on May 20, according to Italy's National Institute for Geophysics and Vulcanology.

It was felt across large parts of northern and central Italy, including in Milan and Florence.

Scores of people fled offices and schools in Bologna, Modena and other cities in the region.

In San Felice sul Panaro, television footage of a tent camp of survivors of the May 20 quake showed images of frightened people running out of their tents as the ground shook again.

Several buildings that had been already damaged in the original quake collapsed, according to the ANSA news agency.

The earthquake shocks seem set to reignite debate in Italy about building safety measures, but also whether authorities should order precautionary measures such as evacuations. The recent earthquakes were almost as strong as the one that hit the central city of L'Aquila in April 2009, killing nearly 300 people and leaving 60,000 homeless.

"All quakes in the Mediterranean area - including the Balkans - are caused by northward movement of the African Plate, which also includes Italy and the Adriatic," geophysicist Rainer Kind of the German Research Centre for Geosciences told dpa.

"Broadly, that means all these earthquakes have the same cause. But there's no way you can say that if an earthquake happens in Bulgaria or Italy, that they are directly related. You can't link one earthquake to another. It's never been possible to prove anything like this."

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