Snow, earthquakes for central Italy

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Rome - The regions of central Italy faced critical conditions on Monday due to heavy snowfalls and continuing low-intensity earth tremors, local media reported.

A 3.4 magnitude earthquake struck some 18 kilometers outside L'Aquila, in the Abruzzo region, on Monday morning, Ansa news agency said.

The Italian Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) said the quake occurred at 11.37 a.m. local time northwest of L'Aquila, and the seismic event was felt all around the province.

The historic city had been devastated by a 6.3-magnitude earthquake that killed 309 people in 2009, and the recent tremors, although of low intensity, caused tension and fear among the population.

The ground also kept shaking in the nearby regions of Marche and Molise between Sunday and Monday, with a main 3.6 magnitude tremor striking shortly after 11 p.m. Sunday, according to INGV.

Two further tremors were registered near the city of Macerata on Monday afternoon, INGV said.

Low intensity tremors had been registered non-stop in the whole central Italy since January 14, and some 50 of them struck the Molise region, the institute also stated.

The worst one with magnitude 4.3 hit Campobasso, the main province of Molise, on January 16.

Most schools in the Molise region stayed closed on Monday, and all the affected provinces remained on high alert also due to severe weather conditions.

Regional authorities said safety inspections on public school buildings were being intensified to prevent any risks for pupils. No damages were reported so far.

In October 2002, some 27 children and a teacher were in fact killed in a village in Molise, when the roof of a primary school collapsed after a 5.8-magnitude earthquake.

Heavy snowfalls and temperatures well below zero degrees Celsius were registered also in other central regions, causing transport disruption in Umbria, Abruzzo, Marche, and the southern Puglia, and school closure in several cities.

Maritime connections to the Aeolian Islands in Sicily were also temporarily cut on Monday, because of unusual low temperatures and strong winds that swept the southern archipelago.

Italy's Civil Protection Agency issued a medium-level hydrogeological risk warning for the southern and coastal areas of Abruzzo on Monday and Tuesday, due to the intense snowfalls.

The bad weather was expected to continue in Italy's central and southern regions throughout the week, according to forecasts.


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