Strong double quakes rock central Italy
Two powerful earthquakes knocked central Italy on Wednesday, thumping down electrical and telephone lines, destroying buildings and terrorizing the residents of several towns already unnerved by an earthquake that killed nearly 300 people two months ago.
The first 5.5 magnitude quake sent people scrambling out of their houses, and likely saving lives when the second and much more deadly, 6.1 magnitude one hit two hours later. Rescuers operating through the night and in the rain were fighting to evaluate the full extent of the disaster.
Marco Rinaldi, the mayor of the mountain town of Ussita where the earthquake occurred informed Sky Italy television by telephone, “Many houses have fallen. Our city is ruined. The second quake was a long, horrifying one, I’ve felt a lot of earthquakes, however, that was the most powerful I’ve ever felt. Fortunately, everyone had already vacated their homes after the first quake, so I don’t think anyone was hurt.”
“Ultimately, the situation is not as catastrophic as might have been expected” given the intensity of the tremors, he said. The quakes were observed in the capital Rome, sending residents scrambling out of their houses and into the streets.
The second was felt as far away as Venice in the far north, and Naples, south of the capital.
On Wednesday night, many in the quake zones opted to forgo temporary shelters and slept in their cars, Italian television reported.
Geologists announced shocks were to be anticipated after a strong earthquake like the one that struck in August, which destroyed the town of Amatrice, in the Lazio region, along with other towns in Umbria and the Marches region.
On Wednesday night, at least 30 aftershocks — counting the two more powerful tremors — were registered. Carlo Meletti, of the national volcanology center, noted that in past earthquake disasters aftershocks had continued for some six months.
For people who are unable to return home immediately, civil protection has arranged accommodation in gyms and prepared to reopen some of the tent camps which were set up after the August earthquake.
(Additional reporting from AFP)