San Giuliano Di Puglia (Italy), Oct. 31 (Reuters): Six people were killed by an earthquake in this south-central medieval town in Italy today, including four children crushed when their nursery school collapsed during a Halloween party.
About 20 people, many injured, were pulled from the rubble at the school and rescue workers were scrambling to find another 30 people thought to be pinned under the debris, Rome police, who are coordinating rescue efforts, told Reuters.
“People on the ground are hearing voices,” the policeman said. “Workers are digging with their hands rather than machines to make sure they save more lives.”
Two of the dead were adults who died when buildings near the school collapsed.
Officials said the death toll could rise, although at least two children and one adult were pulled out alive in the early evening and rushed off on stretchers.
The tremor, registering 5.4 on the Richter scale, hit at 11.40 am (1040 GMT) near Campobasso, some 226 km southeast of Rome, making it the strongest quake since 1997. It was followed by several strong aftershocks. The children in the school were aged between three and 14, with some elementary school students and teachers in the building too.
Officials said more children could have been trapped but many were outside in the schoolyard for a Halloween party.
“The situation is black here, the whole village has been hard hit. It’s all very confusing but the parents of the children who were in the school are all there trying to find out what happened to their children,” Luciano Gliacurto said.
The quake was felt from Rome to Potenza in southern Italy, some 360 km apart. Panicked residents in villages across the region ran out into the streets.
Cracks ran down the sides of buildings and stones from walls tumbled onto sidewalks.
In San Giuliano di Puglia, earth movers rushed to remove the boulder-size pieces of cement that had trapped children and teachers inside the nursery school while rescue workers climbed onto the collapsed roof to dig for survivors.