Millennium Post

Officials in quake-ridden central Italy assess damage

Officials in central Italy started assessing the damage caused by two strong quakes in the same region of central Italy, which witnessed a deadly tremor in August, early Thursday as an appeal went out for temporary housing adequate for the cold mountain temperatures.

Thousands of people spent the night in their cars, following two quakes that struck late Wednesday evening, forcing residents into the streets in pouring rain – too late for authorities to come up with adequate shelter. A series of small shocks overnight, including two registering magnitudes above 4 before dawn, further unsettled residents.

However, there was no report of casualty or people trapped in the rubble. The head of Italy’s civil protection agency, Fabrizio Curcio, said it appeared that the situation “is not as catastrophic” as it could have been. 

A 73-year-old man died of a heart attack, possibly brought on by the quakes, local authorities told the ANSA news agency.

Mayors of towns scattered in the mountain region, spanning the Umbria and Marche areas, say many more homes were rendered uninhabitable, on top of those damaged in the August quake, while historic structures that survived previous quakes had succumbed this time.

Camerino Mayor Gianluca Pasqui said the town’s historic bell tower had collapsed, but emphasised that reconstruction work after a 6.1-quake in 1997 appeared to have contributed to the absence of serious injury. “I can say that the city didn’t have victims. That means that even if there is a lot of damage probably the reconstruction in the historic centre was done in a correct and adequate manner. Because otherwise, we would be speaking of something else,” Pasqui said.

The president of Umbria region, Catiuscia Marini, told RAI state television that officials were scrambling to come up with temporary housing, mindful that with winter approaching and temperatures dropping, tents can’t be deployed as they were after the August quake. The concern for the predominantly elderly population of the remote mountain region was repeated by other officials.

Marini said after the quakes many people will be fearful of staying even in hotels deemed safe, and that solutions like campers were being considered. “We don’t have injured, we have people who are very afraid, who have anxiety, especially the elderly,” she said.

In Visso, Mayor Giuliano Passaglini said he was only able to provide shelter for a couple hundred residents overnight, and most people spent the night in their cars. About 800 people were without shelter in Visso.

Firefighters were helping residents to retrieve objects from their homes in the red zone. Most were intact, showing only cracks.

The first quake struck at 7:10 pm and carried a magnitude of 5.4. But the second one a little more than two hours later was eight times stronger at 6.1, according to the US Geological Survey. Officials said the fact that people had already left their homes when the second quake hit probably saved lives. 
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