It was “miraculous” that no one seems to have died as a direct result of the three earthquakes that struck central Italy within the space of 12 hours, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said on Thursday.
The first quake of magnitude 5.4 occurred at 7.10 pm (1710 GMT). The second of 5.9 magnitude followed little more than two hours later and a third of 4.6 magnitude came shortly before midnight. They brought fresh misery to an area about 120 kilometres north-east of Rome.
“Given the intensity of the temblors, the outcome in terms of lack of victims (…) is miraculous,” Alfano said on RAI state radio, stressing that reports were still coming in.
Amid more than 100 aftershocks, there were two more strong quakes of magnitude above 4 in the early hours of Thursday in the remote mountain area, according to the National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology (INGV).
The head of civil defence agency Protezione Civile, Fabrizio Curcio, told RAI radio that “a few thousand” people had to abandon their homes.
According to the ANSA news agency, there was at least one indirect casualty: a 73-year-old man in the town of Tolentino died of a heart attack which was possibly triggered by shock caused by the seismic events.
Wednesday’s quakes, which were felt in Rome and other places hundreds of kilometres away, had their epicentres close to where a 6-magnitude earthquake struck on August 24, flattening several towns, killing 298 people and leaving thousands homeless.