Strong quake kills 4 in Italy cheese region

SANT’AGOSTINO DI FERRARA, Italy (AP) — A magnitude 6.0 earthquake shook several small towns in northeast Italy Sunday, killing four people, knocking down a clock tower and other centuries-old buildings and causing millions in losses to the region known for making Parmesan cheese.

The quake struck at 4:04 a.m., with its epicenter about 22 miles north of Bologna at a relatively shallow depth of 3.2 miles, the U.S. Geological Survey said. Civil protection agency official Adriano Gumina described it as the worst quake to hit the region since the 1300s.

The four people killed were factory workers on the overnight shift when their buildings, in three separate locations, collapsed, agency chief Franco Gabrielli said, In addition, he said, two women died — apparently of heart attacks that may have been sparked by fear.

Gabrielli said dozens of people were injured.

Two of the dead were workers at a ceramics factory in the town of Sant’Agostino di Ferrara. Their cavernous building turned into a pile of rubble, leaving twisted metal supports jutting out at odd angles and the roof mangled.

In the town of Ponte Rodoni di Bondeno, a worker also died as his factory collapsed, emergency workers told Italian news agencies.

Premier Mario Monti, in Chicago for the NATO summit, told reporters he was returning to Italy before the meeting ends because of the quake.

The quake struck in the farm region known for production of Parmigiano and Grana cheeses. Italy’s farm lobby Coldiretti said that some 200,000 huge, round cheeses were damaged, causing a loss to producers of $65 milion.

Emilio Bianco, receptionist at Modena’s Canalgrande hotel — housed in an ornate 18th-century palazzo — said the quake “was a strong one, and it lasted quite a long time.” The hotel suffered no damage and the Modena province itself was spared, but guests spilled into the streets as soon as the quake hit, he said.

The epicenter was between the towns of Finale Emilia, San Felice sul Panaro and Sermide, but the quake was felt as far away as Tuscany and northern Alto Adige.

One woman on the outskirts of Finale Emilia told Sky her 5-year-old daughter was trapped on her bed by the bricks of a 14th-century tower that toppled onto their home.

Firefighters and other rescuers freed the child without a scratch after two hours. A supporting beam had protected her from falling rubble, rescuers and the mother said.

Nearly 12 hours after the quake, a sharp aftershock hit Sant’Agostino di Ferrara and knocked off part of a wall of city hall.

had been pummeled by the pre-dawn quake, which left a gaping hole on one side of it.

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