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Trio of new quakes jolts quake-damaged central Italy

October 12, 1997

ASSISI, Italy (AP) _ Three sharp earthquakes jolted quake-damaged central Italy on Sunday, crumbling some medieval structures already weakened in last month’s quakes.

Assisi’s famed St. Francis Basilica, heavily damaged by two earthquakes on Sept. 26, appeared to weather the latest shaking without further harm.

Other landmarks fared less well in the three new quakes, which all hit within a six-minute spell around noon. The largest of the quakes had a magnitude of 4.5, the Civil Defense Ministry said.

Among the structures hit hard Sunday was the 15th-century bell tower above the city hall in Foligno, an Umbria town heavily damaged in the September quakes.

``There was this very powerful jolt and we bolted while pieces of plaster were falling all around us,″ said Rome Mayor Francesco Rutelli, who was in Foligno inspecting cracks in the city hall.

The shaking knocked down two corners of the tower and pieces of cornice.

On Sept. 26, the second of two big quakes sent a portion of vaulted ceiling crashing to the floor of Assissi’s famed basilica, killing two monks and two inspectors and destroying important frescoes.

A spokesman for the Franciscan order in Assisi, the Rev. Nicola Giandomenico, said he hoped the lower basilica could be opened to the public in a couple of weeks.

The Sept. 26 quakes killed 10 people and caused widespread damage to homes and the hundreds of medieval churches, towers and palazzi that enrich Italy’s hill towns. A series of powerful aftershocks have continued to inflict damage.

About 5,000 people, including many politicians, took part Sunday in a seven-mile peace march between Assisi and Perugia, Umbria’s capital. Many of the participants urged the government to do more to repair buildings and shelter people left homeless from the September quakes.

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