21 May 2012

Thousands seek shelter as aftershocks continue

8:50 pm on 21 May 2012

Thousands of people left homeless by a powerful earthquake in northern Italy have spent the night in shelters as aftershocks continue to hit the region.

At least seven people died and more than 50 were injured when the quake struck at 4am on Sunday (local time).

The magnitude 6 quake had a depth of 10km. Its epicentre was between the towns of Finale Emilia, San Felice sul Panaro and Sermide, about 35km north of the city of Bologna.

The initial quake destroyed or badly damaged many historic buildings and was felt across a large swathe of northern Italy, as far away as the cities of Milan and Venice, the BBC reports.

A 5.1 magnitude aftershock struck Sunday afternoon, destroying several buildings already weakened.

One firefighter was seriously injured after falling from a wall in Finale Emilia.

Officials say the priority is to find safe accommodation for an estimated 3000 displaced people.

Civil protection officials Finale Emilia organised the setting up of tents on a football pitch to accommodate hundreds of residents.

Many had seen their homes destroyed, but others were simply too afraid to return home.