ROME — A strong earthquake Tuesday devastated north-central Italy for the second time in less than two weeks, leaving at least 16 people dead, about 350 injured and 14,000 homeless.
Seismologists said the worst of the dozens of shocks felt throughout the day in the Emilia-Romagna region came about 9 a.m. and registered a magnitude 5.8. The epicenter was about 25 miles northwest of Bologna, theU.S. Geological Surveyreported.
Factories collapsed, roofs of homes caved in and, as with the magnitude 6 quake in the same area on May 20, historic towers and churches crumbled into massive piles of bricks.
News reports said that 12 people were still missing and rescue squads continued to look through the rubble in the affected towns, most of them small but distinguished for their historic centers, some dating to the 14th century. Later Tuesday, a woman was rescued from the rubble of a building in Cavezzo, near Modena.
Seven people were killed and about 5,000 left homeless in the May 20 quake. Many of those were being housed in tents set up in fields.
The Civil Protection Agency, the government body responsible for search and rescue efforts as well as providing food and shelter, Tuesday estimated that the total number of homeless reached 14,000.
The quake was felt all over northern Italy, and aftershocks continued throughout the day, some exceeding magnitude 5.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti vowed that the government would do all it could to "guarantee the resumption of normal life in this area that is so special, so important and so productive for Italy."
Emilia-Romagna, with Bologna as its capital, is known for being industrious and prosperous and is most famous for the production of Parmesan cheese and prosciutto, Italy's trademark cured ham.
Several of the people killed were workers in factories where roofs collapsed.
Italian television showed video of the damage in Cavezzo, where several buildings were reduced to rubble and the church appeared to have been shorn of its dome and roof.
In a video on the website of the daily La Repubblica, Cavezzo Mayor Stefano Draghetti said, "The situation is dramatic, basically the town doesn't exist anymore."
In nearby Mirandola, only the facade and a few interior arches remained of the Renaissance cathedral in the center of town.
One of the victims was Father Ivan Martini, a parish priest in Rovereto di Novi, who died trying to save sacred objects from his church, news reports said.
Volunteers were arriving from all over Italy to help organize the terrified population in tent cities spread around the area and provide food and blankets.
Delaney is a special correspondent.