| AT least six people have been killed in an earthquake measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale in the northern Italian region of L'Emiglia Romana.
The quake rocked the area at 02.03hrs GMT (04.03hrs local time) and left 50 people injured and millions of euros' worth of property damage.
According to the Civil Protection service, the tremor was felt across the Tuscany, Veneto, Lombardia, Tretino Alto Adigio and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions.
A factory worker in Bondeno, Ferrara province, in the Emiglia Romana region lost his life as he was leaving the building at the end of his shift at 05.00hrs.
Emergency services say the 29-year-old Moroccan national was crushed by a falling beam.
Two other factory workers at a ceramic plant in San Agostino – Leonardo Ansaloni and Nicola Cavicchi – died when the ceiling caved in on top of them.
Ms Cavicchi would not have been on site but for the fact she had agreed to swap shifts with a colleague.
And 37-year-old Gabi Ehsemann, a German national visiting Italy on business, died in San Alberto di San Pietro, in the Casale area of Bologna.
Her death is thought to have been provoked by a panic attack as a result of the quake, mirroring that of a lady of over 100 years old who lost her life in San Agostino.
Finally, a printing press worker in the Dosso district of San Agostino was killed when the factory ceiling came down.
At least 50 people in the north-east of Italy have suffered injuries, many as a result of an aftershock measuring 4.9 on the Richter scale in Modena exactly an hour later.
This aftershock bought down the church in San Felice sul Panaro in the Modena province, five kilometres from the epicentre.
Sources from the National Geophysics and Vulcanology Institute say the main quake – which lasted at least 20 seconds - was preceded by two smaller ones of 4.1 and 2.2, at 23.13hrs and 23.43hrs GMT respectively (01.13hrs and 01.43hrs local time).
The worst quake to strike Italy in recent times was on April 6, 2009 in L'Aquila, which claimed the lives of 308 people and left more than 1,600 injured.