At least 100 people were killed and scores of others wounded tonight in Abruzzo (a region situated east of Rome) when a powerful heartquake shook at 3.32 a.m.
The tremor was reported to be between 5.8 and 6.3 degrees on the Richter scale (with 10 degress being the top) with the centre being in the medieval town of L’Aquila, 75 miles from the Italian capital.
Even though the latest death toll reports more than 100 victims, the official number of dead people is still bound to raise, as stated by the Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, who added that “the death toll in the central province of L’Aquila was likely to rise further”.
Also, scores of buildings (more than a 10.000) and some major momument were severely damaged by the quake. It seems likely that at least 50.000 people will remain homeless.
“Some towns in the area have been virtually destroyed in their entirety,” told the press this morning in Rome Gianfranco Fini, speaker of the lower house of Parliament,. Later on a mouthpiece from the civil protection agency spoke about the conditions on the ground which are “extremely critical, as many buildings have collapsed”. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi canceled his diplomatic visit to Moscow and declared a state of emergency in the region of Abruzzo.
A doctor of the civil hospital of L’Aquila, Bernardino Persichetti, said that tonight at around four o’clok he felt a “tremendous earth tremor…and I saw three or four kids dying in my hands, choked by the rubale, I will never forget this pain”.
Right after the tremor subsided, hundreds of citizens in L’Aquila gathered in the central ssquare and were immediately assisted by volunteers and nuns from a local convent. In the meantime, firefighters and others started to work in order to rescue as many people as they could. As it is now thousands of volunteers are reaching L’Aquila for donating their blood and helping out.
While the Pope is praying for the victims, “especially the children”, people are concerned about the problem with the elecricity, Enel, the main energy provider of the country had to cut power supplies to 15,000 users as a “security measure”, said a spokewoman.
According to Guido Bertolas, head of the civil protection, this quake was “comparable, if not superior, to the one which struck Umbria in 1997.”
L’Aquila (The Eagle in italian) is a university city that sits on top of a hill and is sorrounded by high mountains such as il Gransasso (The Big Rock). It counts almost 100.000 residents, apparently some students are among the victims. The city is famous for its very ancient churces that date back to the 12th century and for its fountain of 99 spouts, built in 1272.
According to SkyTG24, the thirteenth-century church of Santa Maria di Collemaggio was destroyed by the quake.
Countries like Italy and Greece are earthquake prone, since the lie to the north of a zone where the African and Eurasian tectonic plates rub against each other. Among the most recent earthquakes, the one in Foggia in 2002, left about 30 people dead, then the one in Umbria in 1997, killed about 10 people. The most powerful and damaging hearthquake in Italy was the one in Irpinia, in 1980 which killed 3.000 people.
Silvio Berlusconi has announced that there are at least 5000 volunteers helping the vicitims in L’Aquila right now and that the number of wounded people is 1500.
Andrea Loquenzi Holzer for L’Occidentale