Death toll from Italy earthquake rises to 17

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Italy earthquake aftermath

ROME (CNN) — The death toll from a 5.8-magnitude earthquake in northern Italy rose to 17 after the discovery of another body, officials said Wednesday, May 30th, as questions were asked about why factory buildings collapsed.

The latest body was found in the rubble of the collapsed factory in the area of Medolla, Italy’s civil protection agency said.

The prosecutor’s office in the province of Modena, where the quake was centered, opened an investigation Wednesday into the cause of death of the quake victims, many of whom were factory workers.

Investigators will examine how the factories were built and why they couldn’t withstand an earthquake of Tuesday’s magnitude.

Modena’s chief prosecutor, Vito Zincani, told CNN that as modern buildings, they should have remained standing.

Most of the modern structures in the area were not damaged, he said, so the fact that some factories collapsed “shows an anomaly that needs investigation.”

The earthquake, which forced thousands of people from their homes, came nine days after a 6.0-magnitude quake struck the same region, killing seven people.

Tuesday’s quake was followed by dozens of aftershocks. The U.S. Geological Survey recorded one of 5.6 magnitude.

Italian ministers met Wednesday morning and decided on several measures to be taken in the aftermath of the quake.

The government declared a state of emergency in the quake area and set June 4 as a national day of mourning, according to a press statement.

Also, an extra two-cent tax will be added to gasoline to help finance the recovery effort, the statement said.

The towns of Mirandola and Cavezzo, northwest of the city of Bologna, were closest to the epicenter, civil protection authorities said.

Witnesses reported on Twitter that Cavezzo was about 70% destroyed. Pictures purportedly from the town, as well as a video stream from Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, show damaged and destroyed buildings.

Churches and historic structures were among the affected buildings.

In the small town of Novi di Modena, a 65-year-old priest died inside his church as he tried to save its statue of the Madonna.

Construction workers who were out surveying the damage in Medolla were emotional as they spoke of their experiences a day earlier.

They are keen to get back to work as soon as possible to restore a sense of normality, they said.

Geophysicist Antonio Piersanti, of the National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology, told Corriere della Sera that it was possible more earthquakes could follow in the coming weeks.

Some 50 tremors were felt in the area overnight.

The last significant earthquake in this area was in 1571. It was followed by about four years of aftershocks.

CNN’s Hada Messia and Ayesha Durgahee contributed to this report.

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