People flee as quake hits Italy

NORCIA – SUNDAY’S earthquake struck the medieval walled town of Norcia as nuns, monks and priests were heading to morning prayer services, giving them just enough time to flee as the walls around them plunged to the earth.

The quake hit the same central regions that have been rocked by repeated tremors over the past two months. Although it was bigger than the August 24 earthquake that killed almost 300 people, no one died on Sunday, but there was huge damage.

Weakened by repeated powerful jolts in recent weeks, many of Norcia’s churches, monasteries and chapels were wrecked.

“We thought it was the end of everything,” said 74-year-old Sister Maria Raffaella Buoso, sitting on a bench outside the walls of Norcia after being evacuated from the Monastery of the Poor Clares of Santa Maria della Pace.

The nuns of the Poor Clares are normally cloistered and only leave the monastery in an emergency. Firemen had to break the doors down to get them out. Other places were less fortunate, including the historic Basilica of St. Benedict, which stood on the main square of Norcia.

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