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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

More Quakes Rock Italy, Basilica Damaged Again

ASSISI, Italy -- The Basilica of St. Francis, one of the most cherished churches in Christendom, suffered more damage on Tuesday as dozens of fresh tremors hit central Italy, sending residents rushing out into the streets in panic.

"The situation of the Basilica has been aggravated because this earthquake was heavy," said Antonio Paolucci, the government's delegate to assess damage to the 13th century architectural jewel in the town of Assisi.

Paolucci spoke to reporters after he and others surveyed the fresh damage to the Basilica, caused by the first quake on Tuesday, which officials said measured 4.9 on the Richter scale.

It was the fourth big quake in 12 days to have its epicenter near the village of Colfiorito, southeast of Assisi.

Some 90 smaller quakes were registered in the region in the following 10 hours, the civil protection agency in Rome said.

No serious injuries or deaths were reported, although several minor injuries were sustained by frightened people fleeing the area in heavy rain. Five people were taken to hospital.

Father Nicola Giandomenico, a spokesman for the basilica, said a hole had appeared on one of the tympanums of the upper side wall of the historic upper part of the basilica.

A tympanum is the recessed triangular space between a sloping roof and the vertical walls of a building. "We are looking for a way to dismantle or bolster the tympanum," Paolucci said.

He said an eventual collapse of the tympanum would be "fatal" for the basilica because it could damage frescoes below.

The center of Assisi was closed off and reporters and television cameramen were told to enter only at their own risk.

Several houses in the Umbria and Marche region, already damaged by the quakes that first struck the area last month, collapsed or suffered more damage. Railway bridges were also slightly damaged. Railway lines and electricity were cut in several areas.