MANTUA, Italy - Agence France-Presse
Italy was struck 10 days ago by a previous quake which killed six people and left thousands in makeshift tent dwellings.
At least 15 people were killed by earthquakes which struck northeast Italy on Tuesday, and rescue workers were looking for several missing, according to the Civil Protection Agency.
"At this point we have 15 people confirmed dead and another four or five people missing," a spokesperson for the agency in Rome told AFP.
"Everything's collapsed, it's chaos, buildings across the town are down," a fireman in the town of Cavezzo told Corriere della Sera newspaper.
The 5.8 magnitude quake struck about 60 kilometres east of the city of Parma, according to the Geographical Institute of Modena, and sent panicked residents rushing into the streets.
It followed a 6.0 magnitude quake in the industrial northeast on May 20 which killed six people and left thousands in makeshift tent dwellings, with many homes and historic buildings reduced to rubble.
"Everything was shaking, we ran out into the streets. The roads are now blocked by people trying to flee the centre in case there's an aftershock," Corriere della Sera reporter
Elvira Serra said from the small town of Cento.
Historic chapels, churches and buildings damaged in the first quake crumbled to the ground as panicked citizens joined those already camping out in blue tent camps set up in parks and school playgrounds after the last quake.
"Last night was the first night we'd spent back in our homes after the first quake. Then another one hit," one resident told SKY TG24 television in Sant'Agostino, scattered with buildings with gaping holes in their sides.
At least three victims were workers crushed by falling rubble.
Three were killed in San Felice del Panaro when a factory collapsed, two others died in the town of Mirandola, one in Concordia and one in Finale, police captain Salvatore Iannizzotto in Modena told the ANSA news agency.
A parish priest in the town of Rovereto di Novi was also found dead but Iannizzotto said it was not clear whether he died of shock or was killed in the quake. A woman was killed in Cavezzo when a furniture factory collapsed.
Firemen in Carpi said the priest there had been killed, ANSA reported.
"A new quake has hit the Emilia Romagna region, leaving victims, wounded people and damaged buildings in its wake," Prime Minister Mario Monti said in a televised address from Rome.
"I send the government's condolences to the families of the victims and call on all citizens to have faith. I'm sure we'll get over this moment," he said.
Tuesday's quake was felt throughout northern and central Italy, causing the the collapse of several structures weakened by the May 20 quake.
"The population hit will not be abandoned," said the head of the Emilia Romagna region, Vasco Errani.
In Pisa, home of the famous leaning tower, offices were evacuated as a precautionary measure. People ran out into the streets from shops and offices in Milan, Bologna and the Aosta Valley, close to the French
In Bologna, where the quake was clearly felt, trains to Milan, Verona and Modena were suspended, the Italian railway network said, while controls were carried out to check if lines had been damaged.
There were moments of panic in Venice, where a statue fell to the ground, lightly wounding a passerby.
Around 7,000 people who fled their homes in the region when the first earthquake hit are still living in around 89 tent camps erected in fields, sports fields, car-parks and schools.
The camps can take up to 9,000 people.
The region has been hit by a series of quakes and aftershocks over the past two weeks.
The latest disasters struck just over three years after a 6.3-magnitude quake devastated the city of L'Aquila in central Italy in March 2009, killing some 300 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless.