A NORTH-EAST woman has spoken of the terrifying moment she experienced a deadly earthquake which struck in northern Italy.

Helen Cook, from Middlesbrough, is staying in a village on the shores of Lake Como, close to the epicentre of a magnitude 5.8 quake which hit Italy’s Emilia region on Tuesday.

The death toll from that earthquake, which felled several buildings, has now reached 17.

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The area, north of Bologna, had been recovering from an even stronger 6.0 quake nine days earlier, which killed seven people Miss Cook slept through the first shock, which struck at 4am, but was wide awake during this week’s quake.

The 30-year-old said: “I got very scared, very quickly.

“The rumbling and shaking got stronger. My eyes shot open and I looked up to the ceiling and saw the chandelier swaying. It was really eerie.

“I knew in reality what was happening but the bed was moving side to side and I just froze on the spot.

“It’s a really old, heavy wooden bed and I couldn’t believe how much it was moving.

“I was holding my breath, waiting for the shaking to get stronger and a prompt to get to a safe spot.

“I’ve never had any earthquake prep growing up in England. I didn’t know what to do. I’m in a small village on Lake Como and the roads are narrow, the buildings are old.

I was scared “About 30 seconds after the room started shaking the quake gradually drifted away.

The chandelier was still swaying.

“I’ve been monitoring the news all day, looking at the damage close to the epicentre and its really unnerving. I’m so glad I’m not closer to the big cities and the epicentre. I can only imagine how terrifying it would have been.”

Miss Cook, a former reporter with The Northern Echo, said she had been reading up on what to do during an earthquake and how to stay safe. She said: “I called my parents in Canada to let them know I was okay. I’m sure they would have been worried had they seen the news and not heard from me.

“I’ve been in Italy for three weeks on vacation. I had planned to travel to Milan and Venice, passing through Bolonga next week, but I’m going to think about my plans now in light of these quakes.”