7 Dead in Italian Quake, Children Trapped
- Children Trapped at School Halloween Party
Luca Turi (Reuters)
SAN GIULIANO DI PUGLIA, Italy (Reuters) - At least seven people died in an
earthquake in this medieval town in south-central Italy on Thursday,
including five children crushed when their nursery school collapsed during
a Halloween party.
About 25 people, many injured, were pulled from the rubble at the school
and rescue workers scrambled to find about two dozen others thought to be
pinned under the debris, policemen on the site said.
"The children continue to talk to us. They are in two different groups in
two 'pockets', some of them are hiding under benches," a rescue worker said.
Officials said the death toll could rise, although five children were
pulled out alive on Thursday night and rushed off in ambulances as rescue
workers clawed through the crumbled school to reach one classroom.
Two of the dead were adults, killed when buildings near the school collapsed.
The tremor, registering 5.4 on the Richter scale, hit at 11:40 a.m. near
Campobasso, about 135 miles southeast of Rome, making it the strongest
quake since 1997. It was followed by several strong aftershocks.
Some 3,000 people in the Molise region were left temporarily homeless and
hundreds throughout southern Italy were evacuated due to damage to their
A total of 62 people, including 54 children, were in the combined nursery
and elementary school when the roof over the nursery section caved in,
Officials said more children could have been trapped but many were outside
in the schoolyard for a Halloween party.
"The situation is black here, the whole village has been hard hit. It's all
very confusing but the parents of the children who were in the school are
all there trying to find out what happened to their children," local
resident Luciano Gliacurto said.
FROM ROME TO POTENZA
The quake was felt from Rome to Potenza in southern Italy, 360 km (216
miles) apart. Frightened residents in villages across the region ran into
the streets. Cracks ran down the sides of buildings and stones from walls
tumbled onto sidewalks.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi headed to the epicenter of the earthquake
on Thursday night after the government declared a state of emergency in the
In San Giuliano di Puglia, earth movers rushed to remove the boulder-size
pieces of cement that trapped children and teachers inside the nursery
school. Rescue workers used spot lights as they dug for survivors.
Distraught residents and children in Halloween costumes looked on helplessly.
"More than half of the school collapsed," said Giovanni Di Marzo, a
resident who witnessed the accident. "All around we have a crowd of worried
Some rescue workers dealing with this week's eruption of Mount Etna on
Sicily were being rushed to the earthquake area, an Interior Ministry
The tremor was the strongest since a quake registering 5.8 rocked the
central Italian region of Umbria in 1997. Almost 2,800 people were killed
in 1980 when a quake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale struck south of
Thursday's quake was far from Sicily, where tremors five days ago jolted
Mount Etna, Europe's largest and most active volcano, into life. (With
additional reporting by Estelle Shirbon and Julia Hancock in Rome)