words by Gabi Logan
At 4.02 am on Sunday the 20th of May, a six magnitude earthquake, centred on a point 35km north of Bologna close to Finale Emilia in Emilia Romagna, ravaged northern Italy.
The force of the quake could be felt from Venice on the eastern coast to parts of Liguria in the west. Though it spared major cities, the quake gravely affected the countryside around Bologna, Modena, and Ferrara, an area filled with historic villages, Parmesan production, and factories.
After the initial quake, aftershocks continued throughout the day, frustrating rescue efforts. During a 5.1-magnitude aftershock at 3.00 pm, a firefighter fell off of a wall and is under emergency care. Seven people have been officially declared dead due to the quake, including four factory workers on the night shift—two in a ceramics factory in Sant’Agostino, another in the Tecopress factory, and a Moroccan worker in a plastic factory in Ponte Rondoni di Bondeno-- and three women, who died of fear and stress-related medical issues.
At least three thousand people have been displaced from their homes. With rainy weather and a stormy forecast on the way for the week, local officials are working to find adequate shelter, erecting tents on football fields and other public lands. Many are sleeping in their cars until evacuation camps are completed.
The last major earthquake in Italy was the 2009 quake in L’Aquila which killed over 300 people, though there has not been an earthquake of this scale in Emilia Romagna since medieval times. The culture minister has defined the loss of cultural heritage incalculable and grave. In Finale Emilia, the cathedral, large parts of the castle and the clock tower have been reduced to rubble.
Premier Mario Monti will return early from his trip to the U.S. for the G8 summit to participate in the relief efforts.