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Italy quake leaves thousands braving aftershocks in tent cities

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More than 10,000 survivors of the second fatal earthquake to strike northern Italy this month spent the night in tent cities and public schools, braving dozens of aftershocks as the government prepared new emergency aid measures.

The death toll rose to 16 in yesterday’s 5.8 magnitude quake in the Emilia-Romagna region, which came nine days after the first one killed seven. More than 14,000 have been forced to leave their homes and estimates of the damage have risen to the hundreds of millions of euros.

Prime Minister Mario Monti’s Cabinet meets today to adopt new emergency measures after freeing up 50 million euros ($62 million) in aid last week for the first temblor. Monti yesterday pledged his government “will do everything necessary to respond” to the quake. The premier canceled a trip to attend a conference in Brussels tomorrow to follow developments more closely, news agency Ansa reported today.

Italy suffers about 2,000 earthquakes a year with more than 3 million people living in seismic areas, according to the National Council of Geologists. Almost half of Italy’s territory is at risk of a quake, with more than 6 million buildings in the affected seismic areas, the group said.

Thousands Evacuated

About 8,000 people were evacuated yesterday from their homes, bringing the total to about 14,000 from the two earthquakes this month, Deputy Prime Minister Antonio Catricala said in parliament. The severest damage was reported near the epicenter surrounding towns including Cavezzo, Medolla and Mirandola, Emilia Romagna’s administration said in a statement. Two factories in the cities of Mirandola and Medolla were reduced to rubble. A building housing a construction company in San Felice Sul Panaro collapsed, killing three, one day after it reopened following the first quake.

The quake was felt throughout northern Italy, including the financial capital Milan, where some buildings and schools were evacuated, and as far south as Tuscany and Umbria.

“Emilia Romagna won’t be left alone,” said Vasco Errani, head of the regional government, who was meeting with Monti in Rome yesterday when the earthquake struck.

Fiat SpA’s sports-car makers Ferrari SpA, based in Maranello near Modena, and Maserati SpA suspended operations at their factories in the region, Fiat Chairman John Elkann said. Motorcycle maker Ducati Motor Holding SpA, also based in the region, said on Twitter that the company shut down business after the quake.

The May 20 disaster, centered near the town of Finale Emilia, toppled buildings across the region, including two factories where four workers were killed

The damage caused by the two quakes was estimated at about 500 million euros for the agriculture industry in the region, trade association Coldiretti said. The estimate includes the destruction of farm equipment and buildings and damage to the country’s prized Parmesan cheese. A 39-kilo wheel of the cheese aged for 24 months can retail for more than 700 euros.

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