By David Ng
7:05 AM PDT, May 21, 2012
The magnitude 6.0 earthquake that hit northern Italy early Sunday has claimed the lives of six people and has caused widespread damage.
Among the most badly hit sites were a number of cultural heritage structures, according to reports. Italy's cultural ministry said that "after an initial survey, damage to cultural patrimony appears significant."
One of the hardest hit areas was San Felice sul Panaro, a town near Bologna, which saw serious damage to a 14th century castle and to churches that housed valuable paintings and frescoes. The mayor of the town told reporters that "we have practically lost all our artistic patrimony."
The nearby town of Finale Emilia also suffered damage to some of its cultural sites. The Palazzo dei Veneziani experienced a partial collapse as did the Castello delle Rocche and a clock tower.
The earthquake is said to be Italy's largest since the 2009 quake that hit the central region of the country. The epicenter of Sunday's quake was approximately 22 miles north of Bologna, in Italy's Emilia–Romagna region.
Some of the cultural damage was a result of powerful aftershocks that hit the region following the main tremor.
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