Italy quake death toll nears 250 as rescuers search demolished towns
The 6.2 magnitude quake struck a cluster of mountain communities 140 km (85 miles) east of Rome early on Wednesday as people slept, destroying hundreds of homes. The rescue is trying to find survivors under the rubble of flattened towns, could increase the death toll further after rescue teams worked through the night.
The Civil Protection department officials said they expected to confirm more deaths as the search operation continued. Trucks full of rubble left the area every few minutes, including one in which a dusty doll could be seen lying on top of tonnes of debris.
On Thursday, the sun rose on frightened people who had slept in cars or tents, the earth continuing to tremble under their feet from aftershocks, hundreds of which have struck since the quake. Two registered 5.1 and 5.4, just before dawn.
“I haven’t slept much because I was really afraid,” said 70-year-old Arturo Onesi from the town of Arquata del Tronto, who spent the night in a tent camp for survivors and rescue workers. On Thursday afternoon a violent aftershock measuring magnitude 4.3 sent rescuers fleeing from debris and stones that fell from the severely damaged bell tower of the 15th century church of St Augustine in Amatrice.
The aftershock, which struck fear and panic in survivors, detached the church’s facade, leaving it dangerously unstable over the main street where rescuers work. The original earthquake was powerful enough to be felt in Bologna to the north and Naples to the south, both more than 220 km (135 miles) from the epicentre.
Many of those killed or injured were holidaymakers in the four worst-hit towns — Amatrice, Pescara del Tronto, Arquata del Tronto and Accumoli. Rescuers working with emergency lighting in the darkness saved a 10-year-old girl, pulling her alive from the rubble where she had lain for about 15 hours.