ROME - Less than 10 days after an earthquake devastated the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy, a 5.8-magnitude tremor shook the area Tuesday morning, killing at least 14 people, officials coordinating rescue efforts reported. The latest earthquake destroyed more buildings and once again tested the fortitude of an already unsettled population.
Three aftershocks measuring around magnitude 5 on the Richter scale, according to the National Institute for Geophysics and Volcanology, sent a panicked population streaming into the streets around 1 p.m. Tuesday, and live television broadcasts captured images of buildings crumbling under the strain of the new tremors.
In Mirandola, identified as the epicenter of the earthquake, rescue workers searched for a missing worker in the ruins of a warehouse that had collapsed, the news agency ANSA reported. Although many factories were still closed after the magnitude 6.0 earthquake that hit the region May 20, many businesses had been starting to reorganize so that they could reopen or start production again.
“There was the desire to start again, repress the bad experience of a week ago,’’ said Alberto Silvestri, the mayor of San Felice sul Panaro, where at least three people were killed when a factory collapsed Tuesday. “Then it’s our mentality to go forward, to test ourselves, that’s our strength.’’
Officials said the death toll had reached 14 but that 12 people were unaccounted for. Two hundred people were injured, said Antonio Catricala, a Cabinet undersecretary. Catricala said the government will make June 4 a day of national mourning.
Coming on the heels of another strong earthquake, “the vulnerability of buildings had increased’’ before Tuesday’s temblor struck, said Giulio Selvaggi, director of the national earthquake center for the geophysics institute.
“The aftershocks took place in a moment of great sensitivity, and that caused significant damage,’’ Selvaggi said.
The death toll was especially harsh for a few factories, which were starting to return to work after a week of stopped production.
The new earthquake was more deadly than the one May 20, which killed seven people and left about 6,000 homeless, and also caused more damage.
Many area resident are living in makeshift dormitories in schools and in tent camps. Thousands are sleeping in their cars.
At the time the earthquake struck, 9:03 a.m. Tuesday, Prime Minister Mario Monti was in Rome in a meeting with Vasco Errani, the president of the Emilia-Romagna region, and other officials, to discuss reconstruction efforts.
In a televised statement Monti said the government pledged to immediately cope with the destruction of the new earthquake.
“The state will do everything it can as quickly as it can to guarantee the return to normal life in this very special area, so productive for Italy,’’ Monti said. “We want to return to a normal life and to a recovery of businesses.’’
On Tuesday afternoon, Monti said the government would meet to decide how much money to set aside for the emergency beyond the 50 million euros allocated for the previous earthquake.