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Amid aftershocks, Italy tries to tally earthquake damage

Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images

Hundreds of Italians spent Sunday night in cars or shelters such as this one in Finale Emilia.

ROME - Firefighters, surveyors, engineers, and volunteers struggled through a series of aftershocks Monday to catalog damage and deter looters one day after an earthquake killed seven people and left more than 6,000 homeless in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy.

More than 120 aftershocks rocked the area in the hours following the magnitude-6.0 earthquake, which toppled factories, apartment buildings, and medieval and Renaissance-era monuments early Sunday.

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The president of Emilia-Romagna, Vasco Errani, said in a television interview that it was too soon to determine the economic costs. “They will be very significant, between our cultural heritage and businesses and housing,’’ he said.

An early estimate of $250 million worth of damage - made by Coldiretti, an agricultural trade association - included 400,000 wheels of Parmesan that were destroyed when the shelves on which they were aging collapsed.

The cheese is a principal export of Emilia-Romagna.

The epicenter of the quake was a small town between the art-rich cities of Modena and Ferrara. The area had not been considered at high risk for earthquakes, leading officials to call for revisions to the country’s risk map.

Teams coordinated by the Culture Ministry began to assess churches, towers, and other historic buildings Monday.

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Among the damaged structures was the Ducal Palace in Mantua, but the famed frescoes by 15th-century painter Andrea Mantegna were not affected.

Volunteers patrolled the streets in front of abandoned buildings to deter looters.

“The immediate priority is to determine who can return to their homes,’’ said Fabrizio Toselli, the mayor of Sant’Agostino, a town of 6,000.

A gaping hole in the front wall of its town hall has become a defining image of the earthquake’s devastation.

Toselli said he spent the night with about 250 people in a makeshift dormitory in the civic sports center and many others slept in their cars.

“Their homes may be safe, but they’re still very afraid, so many decided to sleep outside,’’ he said.

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