by Staff Writers
Rome (AFP) Oct 26, 2012
Panic-stricken residents rushed into the streets fearing building collapses when a 5.3-magnitude earthquake struck a southern Italian province early Friday, while an elderly man died from a heart attack.
The 84-year-old victim suffered heart failure when the quake struck the province of Cosenza and was dead before the emergency services could reach him.
No injuries have been reported but several buildings have been damaged. A local hospital was also evacuated and schools closed as a precautionary measure.
According to the US Geological Survey, the quake, with a 5.3 magnitude, at a depth of 3.8 kilometres (2.4 miles), had its epicentre six kilometres south east of Mormanno in the Calabria region.
The national earthquake and volcano centre (INGV) said the epicentre was at a depth of 6.3 kilometres (3.9 miles) between the provinces of Cosenza and Potenza.
At Mormanno, a village of 3,500 inhabitants, about 50 hospital patients had to be evacuated as a precaution and housed in tents. Some buildings were damaged.
"Some plaster fell, a crack appeared in the stairway, we came down in a panic to the streets using our mobile phones for light," Mormanno bed-and-breakfast owner Giuseppina Capalbi told the Corriere della Sera newspaper.
Many homes in the town centre suffered damage and police said it would take some hours to evaluate the scale of the problem, as local officials decided to close schools.
"There was a lot of panic, but happily there are no injured," Mormanno mayor Guglielmo Armentano told Ansa.
"In our historic centre, there are some damaged buildings. As a precaution we have evacuated the hospital," he added.
The quake was felt throughout the Pollino national park, the largest in Italy.
Over 2,200 tremors had struck the same region along the Pollino massif in recent years, but all but a handful were of a magnitude under 3.
Italy frequently falls victim to earthquakes, among the most devastating was the 6.3-magnitude quake in the central city of L'Aquila that in 2009 killed 309 people and left tens of thousands of others homeless.
On Monday, six Italian seismologists and a government official were sentenced to six years in jail for multiple manslaughter for underestimating the risk of that earthquake, in a move viewed by some as a dangerous blow to scientific freedom.
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