SAN FELICE SUL PANARO, Italy -- Workers at the small machinery company had just returned for their first shift following the powerful earthquake earlier this month when another one struck yesterday morning, collapsing the roof.
At least three employees at the factory -- two immigrants and an Italian engineer checking the building's stability -- were among those killed in the second deadly quake in nine days to strike a region of Italy that hadn't considered itself particularly quake-prone.
By late yesterday, the death toll stood at 16, with one person missing: a worker at the machinery factory in the small town of San Felice Sul Panaro. Some 350 people also were injured in the magnitude-5.8 quake north of Bologna in Emilia Romagna, one of Italy's more productive regions, agriculturally and industrially.
The injured included a 65-year-old woman who was pulled out alive by rescuers after lying for 12 hours in the rubble of her apartment's kitchen in Cavezzo, another town hit hard by the quake. Firefighters told Sky TG24 TV that a piece of furniture, which had toppled over, saved her from being crushed by the wreckage. She was taken to a hospital for treatment.
The building, damaged in the May 20 quake, had been vacant since. The woman had just gone back inside it in the morning to retrieve some clothes when the latest temblor knocked down the building, firefighters said.
Factories, barns and churches fell, dealing a second blow to a region where thousands remained homeless from the May 20 temblor, stronger in intensity, at 6.0 magnitude.
The two quakes struck one of the most productive regions in Italy at a particularly crucial moment, as the country faces enormous pressure to grow its economy to stave off the continent's debt crisis. Italy's economic growth has been stagnant for at least a decade, and the national economy is forecast to contract by 1.2 percent this year.
The area encompassing the cities of Modena, Mantua and Bologna is prized for its super car production, churning out Ferraris, Maseratis and Lamborghinis; its world-famous Parmesan cheese, and less well-known but critical to the economy: machinery companies.
As in the May 20 quake, many of the dead yesterday's temblor were workers inside huge warehouses, many of them prefabricated, that house factories.