MONTEREALE (Italy) (AFP) – Italy was hit by four earthquakes in four hours Wednesday, bringing terror to snowbound mountain areas still recovering from last year’s series of deadly tremors.
The quakes, all measuring more than five magnitude, struck close to Amatrice, the mountain town devastated by an August earthquake that left nearly 300 people dead.
There were no reports of casualties but, as night fell and temperatures plummeted, fears mounted for isolated residents of remote hamlets cut off by heavy snowfall.
More than 130,000 homes were without electricity. A mother and child dragged from the ruins of a collapsed country cottage near Teramo in the Abruzzo region were both found to be suffering from hypothermia.
Shortly before dusk, Nello Patrizi, a farmer in Montereale, south of Amatrice, was out with his dog, trying to check on cows knee-deep in snow.
“It was an apocalyptic shock. We were petrified,” the 63-year-old told AFP.
“The first one was bad enough, the others seemed even stronger. You had the impression everything was collapsing, people were screaming.
“With all the snow there was this morning, people could not get out of their houses. I thought ‘all we need now is an earthquake’ and here it is.”
Fabio di Gianfrancesco, 55, drove from Rome to another hamlet, Aringo, to check on elderly relatives.
“They were trapped in the house because of the snow,” he said. “We got them out and then helped the last 10 or so residents here to leave.”
– 160 under canvas –
Some had found alternative lodging in a nearby farm Bed and Breakfast, and around 160 people were preparing to spend the night under the canvas of a giant tent on a local sports field.
It was familiar accommodation for Carmine Cresciotti, 74, who said he had only returned to his home before Christmas following the previous earthquakes. “I have got 11 cats and a dog,” he said. “When the other earthquakes happened everyone abandoned the animals so now they sleep at my place but they will wait outside for me til I come back,” he said.
Wednesday’s first shock struck at 10:25 am (0925 GMT).
Monitors put its strength at between 5.1 and 5.3 magnitude. A second, 50 minutes later, was measured at 5.7 by the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) and 5.4 by Italy’s INGV. Both monitors noted the third, minutes later, at 5.3, and one of more than 100 major aftershocks was measured at 5.1 at 2.30 pm.
The tremors were felt powerfully across the Abruzzo, Lazio and Marche regions and clearly in Rome, over 100 kilometres (60 miles) away.
Residents of Aquila, where over 300 people died in a 2009 earthquake, rushed into the snow-covered streets in panic but the city suffered little damage.
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