The death toll has risen to 150 in the 6.3 magnitude Italian earthquake that struck early this morning. Approximately 1500 people have been injured and tens of thousands are homeless from the quake. It also has caused “major damage to historic buildings in the medieval hill towns of Abruzzo Region east of Rome, officials said.”
Most of the deaths and damage were centered in L’Aquila, a picturesque fortress town at the quake’s epicenter.
“It’s a disaster never before seen,” said Franco Totani, a lawyer who said he was leaving the town to stay at an uncle’s house in Rome. “I’ve seen earthquakes before but this is a catastrophe.”
Although quakes are somewhat common in Italy, the intensity today’s quake is said to be rare.
The L’Aquila quake was the worst to hit Italy since 1980, when a 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck Eboli, south of Naples, leaving more than 2,700 people dead.
In related news, Reuters reports that “an Italian scientist predicted a major earthquake around L’Aquila weeks before disaster struck the city on Monday, killing dozens of people, but was reported to authorities for spreading panic among the population.”
The first tremors in the region were felt in mid-January and continued at regular intervals, creating mounting alarm in the medieval city, about 100 km (60 miles) east of Rome.
Vans with loudspeakers had driven around the town a month ago telling locals to evacuate their houses after seismologist Gioacchino Giuliani predicted a large quake was on the way, prompting the mayor’s anger.
Giuliani’s warning was removed from the internet.