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1976: Huge earthquake rocks Italy
A powerful quake in north-east Italy has left at least 60 people dead and many more buried under rubble.

The strongest of three major tremors measured 6.5 on the Richter scale and struck at about 2000GMT affecting six European countries - France, West Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia as well as Italy.

Broken communications links have made information hard to come by.

It is believed hundreds have been trapped under fallen buildings In the small town of Maiano in the foothills of the Italian Alps - 50 families under two blocks of houses and 60 diners at a restaurant that collapsed.

So far the Italian news agency Italia has reported 15 bodies pulled out from the nearby town of Buia, six deaths in San Daniele del Friuli, three in Gemona and one in Udine, the epicentre of the quake.

In the cities of Venice and Trieste, thousands of people rushed out into open spaces when the earthquake struck.

Police reported chaos on the roads as people escaped built-up areas to spend the night in the open.

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Coffins draped with flags at funeral service in Maiano
Hundreds were killed in the small town of Maiano

In Context
The following 12 months saw hundreds more tremors in the region, the largest of which struck in September.

Altogether, the May and September quakes killed 951 people, injured 2,400 and left 45,000 homeless. Damage was estimated at 3,000m.

The Italian government came under strong criticism for allowing red tape to hamper reconstruction of the area.

When Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti visited the region in September, he was greeted with angry protests from refugees who had been living in tents for four months.

Tent cities were - eventually - replaced with 20,000 prefabricated houses.

Using donations from the European Community, the government had spent 250m by the end of 1976 to rebuild the infrastructure of the region and rehouse its inhabitants.

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