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Italian Quake Toll Hits 29; Probe Ordered

November 02, 2002|From Reuters

SAN GIULIANO DI PUGLIA, Italy — Grieving families, fearful of further tremors, spent Friday night in a makeshift tent camp in this Italian farming town, where 26 children were killed by an earthquake that destroyed their school.

As anger mounted across Italy over the disaster, the government ordered an inquiry into why the school's roof fell on students attending a Halloween party Thursday.

A teacher also died at the school, and two elderly women were crushed to death elsewhere in the town of about 1,200. At least 3,000 people were left homeless in the southern Molise region by the magnitude 5.4 earthquake and a strong aftershock Friday.

Aerial shots of the medieval town showed that many buildings in the center, some hundreds of years old, were damaged. But only the school was reduced to a heap of concrete.

"All of the houses in the town remained standing except for a few cracks; the only building destroyed was the school," Infrastructure Minister Pietro Lunardi told RAI television. "For this reason I have named an inquiry commission."

About 60 children were at the Francesco Iovine School -- built in the early 1950s before Italy tightened seismic regulations -- when disaster hit.

An entire class of 6-year-olds was wiped out when the school folded like a house of cards when the temblor struck.

Some experts said the school was not built to withstand the weight of the concrete in the roof and in the walls of new classrooms added to the second story.

Rescue workers were pulling the last bodies from the rubble when a powerful aftershock shook the village Friday afternoon, sparking widespread panic and prompting police to evacuate residents.

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