Florence

Tuscan governor calls for state of emergency for quakes

Shelters to house 1,000 people

Tuscan governor calls for state of emergency for quakes

Florence, June 24 - Tuscan Governor Enrico Rossi has called for a state of emergency after a series of earthquakes hit a zone east of the seaside city of La Spezia over the weekend. On Friday a first earthquake shook the Lunigiana and Garfagnana areas, located near the western coast between Massa Carrara and Lucca, registering a 5.2 magnitude. Building damage, but no fatalities or injuries, were reported. However, fear that worse could come brought life to a standstill and drove residents to abandon their homes, camping instead in cars and temporary shelters. Risk of a major quake remained, Geodynamics Professor Carlo Doglioni of Sapienza University in Rome told daily La Repubblica in an interview published Saturday. The professor said the active fault was eerily silent, indicating that seismic energy was not being gradually released, and thus possibly building up. Alarm appeared justified on Sunday, when a series of aftershocks hit, the first measuring 4.4, followed by four more, including one that was 3.1. Rossi, who visited Lunigiana Sunday evening, said he called on the national Civil Protection Department to send four housing shelters, with a total capacity of 1,000 people, which will be set up on Monday in various parts of the affected area. A Civil Protection mobile-assistance unit also left Florence on Monday to provide additional support structures for the local population. Mayors of Fivizzano and Miucciano said late Sunday was relatively calm after nerve-rattling tremors during the day. Local towns are proceeding with high-school-diploma exams on Monday, after structural stability was verified for local schools. However, one testing site was relocated in the town of Villafranca. The spectre of recent, devastating earthquakes in the northern Emilia-Romagna region in 2012 and the central city of L'Aquila in 2009, has primed Italians not to underestimate the possible warning posed by even relatively small earthquakes. Tremors preceded a 5.8-magnitude earthquake in L'Aquila, on April 6, 2009, that killed 297 people and left about 65,000 people homeless. Prior to the quake, quivering ground had spooked people from their homes and prompted the Italian National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks to meet over the danger of a major earthquake one week before it hit. In a controversial trial, the L'Aquila court ruled in October 2012 that the commission's report downplayed the likelihood of a major quake, lulling residents into returning to or remaining in unsafe structures. The L'Aquila court sentenced six scientists and an ex-government official to six years in prison for multiple manslaughter. In May 2012, two major earthquakes shook Emilia-Romagna. The first earthquake, on May 20, registered magnitude 5.9, and was followed about eleven hours later by two aftershocks, both of magnitude 5.2. Seven people died in the first event, but when a 5.8 magnitude quake struck the same area nine days later, it killed another 20 people and wrought widespread damage, especially to structures already weakened by the earlier event.

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