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Italy earthquake: Death toll rises as rescuers pull bodies from the rubble


Strong aftershock brings more damage

A strong aftershock has hit central Italy, causing further damage to Amatrice and sending rescuers scrambling.

According to the US Geological Survey, the earthquake was magnitude 4.3 and struck 10 kilometres east south-east of Maltignano.

Dozens of journalists who were in Amatrice to cover the devastation reported the “strong” aftershock went for around 4 seconds and send plumes of dust rising into the air.

One reporter said the town’s bell tower had further collapsed, while another said the aftershock had brought down more houses.

Search ‘to be called off’ soon

The commander of one of the agencies involved in the search for survivors says efforts could be called off on Thursday night local time.

Giovanni Coviello, the regional commander of the Forest Rangers, told the BBC that rescuers were continuing to dig through the rubble with their bare hands.

However, after resuing several children more than 17 hours after the earthquake, they were quickly losing hope of finding anyone else.

“I think they [any survivors] can survive for 12 or 15 hours more, but at the end of this [Thursday] afternoon we’ll declare to stop the search,” Mr Coviello said.

“Because we will not have a probability to find people alive.”

Rescue crews remove a body from a collapsed building at Amatrice.
Rescue crews remove a body from a collapsed building at Amatrice. Photo: Carl Court

‘Unsafe to be on the streets’

Channel Nine’s Europe correspondent Tom Steinfort has also been evacuated from Amatrice.

In a video posted to Twitter, Steinfort said he could hear buildings crumbling around him.

“We’ve been told that the ground we’re standing on at the moment is no longer safe,” he said.

“They fear that there will be a further huge landslip here, and we do have to immediately move away.

“They just don’t believe it’s safe for anybody to be on the streets any more, that’s how serious it is.”

A police officer weeps after viewing damaged buildings in Amatrice.
A police officer weeps after viewing damaged buildings in Amatrice. Photo: Getty Images

Some victims from Spain, Romania

The Spanish and Romanian foreign ministries have confirmed some of their citizens are among the 247 who died in Wednesday’s earthquake.

Two Romanians were killed, eight are missing and four are being treated in hospital, ministry spokesman Ionut Valcu said.

Consular officials from Romania have travelled to where the earthquakes hit, an area believed to be home to around 8000 Romanians.

At least one Spaniard was killed, but the Spanish foreign ministry could give no further details about the victim.

 

‘Get out of here, the town is crumbling’

Crowds in Amatrice, one of the towns hardest-hit by the earthquake, have been evacuated by police who fear the city is going to “crumble”.

BBC Correspondent Jenny Hill was one of those who was rushed away.

“We were suddenly shouted at by a number of police officers, who shouted in Italian ‘you need to get down the hill as quickly as possible, get out of here’,” Ms Hill said.

The officers continued: “Our alarm system has gone off, the town is crumbling.”

Ms Hill said there was “a real sense of urgency” as people rushed out of the town.

An emergency services worker puts his hand on his head as he walks from rubble in Amatrice.
An emergency services worker puts his hand on his head as he walks from rubble in Amatrice. Photo: Getty Images

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Hundreds of millions of euros pledged

Italy’s national emergency fund has been activated, with €234 million (AU$346 million) available for disaster relief.

Local news outlets are reporting that a state of emergency will be declared on Thursday afternoon, local time.

Paola De Micheli, the undersecretary for the Ministry of Economy, said the money would be “immediately available”.

“We are still reconstructing L’Aquila [from its deadly earthquake in 2009] but we can take these millions to apply immediately to overcoming the emergency and begin reconstruction as soon as possible,” she said.

Thousands of rescuers converge on earthquake zone

More than 5400 people are providing assistance in the earthquake zone, according to the chief of the Civil Protection Office, Titti Postiglione.

Postiglione told La Repubblica that there are 1000 police officers, 1060 firefighters, 400 members of the defence force and more than 3000 volunteers from local organisations helping the relief effort.

The death toll remains at 247 with 264 injured.

Aleandro Petrucci, the mayor of Arquata, one of the hardest hit towns, says there are 57 dead in the towns of Arquata and Pescara. 

“At the moment we’re looking for two people under the rubble in the centre of Arquata and we think there is a couple under a house which has completely crumbled in Pescara del Tronto,” he told La Repubblica.

“Unfortunately the sniffer dogs can’t find anyone alive.”

Rescuers make their way through destroyed houses at Pescara Del Tronto.
Rescuers make their way through destroyed houses at Pescara Del Tronto. Photo: AP

Earthquake damage ‘like Syria’

One rescuer who has been searching for people in the rubble at Amatrice has told journalists the town reminds him of a war zone.

“[It’s] as in a country where a city has been bombed,” the rescuer told Nine News.

“If you imagine Syria, something like that.” he said.

Search co-ordinator Luigi D’Angelo said rescue teams were still hopeful of finding people alive.

“We have to continue working and searching, because even after two days, two and a half days, we have found people alive in other situations,” Mr D’Angelo said.

Earthquake destruction: Before and after

After the earthquake, the mayor of Amatrice said his town “isn’t here any more”.

Photos taken on Wednesday of the town’s main street Corso Umberto I, when compared to Google Street View, sadly show this seems to be the case.

Slide on the photos below to see before and after.

Photos: Bloomberg/Google

Search continues for a second day

Fresh rescue crews, including sniffer dogs, have been brought in for day two of the search at Amatrice.

Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images

Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images

The town has been one of the worst-hit, with heavy equipment now brought in to help move masses of rubble.

Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images

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Rescuers cheer as girl pulled from rubble

Rescuers who had worked through the night shouted with joy as a 10-year-old girl was found alive at Pescara del Tronto.

​The girl had been trapped for 17 hours after the earthquake struck.

Read the story here.

Many visitors to destroyed hotel ‘unaccounted for’

Italian newspaper La Repubblica is reporting that more than 70 Italian visitors to the town of Amatrice were staying in the Hotel Roma, which was destroyed by the earthquake.

Seven bodies have been pulled out of the rubble but many of the visitors staying at the hotel are still unaccounted for.

The mayor of Amatrice, Sergio Pirozzi, told La Corriera della Sera he fears the death toll in his town will rise to more than 200.

The town, which has been all but destroyed by the earthquake, has a population of 2600.

Amatrice’s parish priest, Don Sabino D’Amelio said they are trying to help all those left in the town, “but it’s hard to find words”.

“We don’t even have tears left to cry,” he told La Corriere della Sera.

A lone building stands among the grey rubble at Amatrice, as rescuers search for survivors.
A lone building stands among the grey rubble at Amatrice, as rescuers search for survivors. Photo: AP

‘More than 60 aftershocks’ following quake

There were more than 60 aftershocks with a magnitude of at least 2 on the Richter scale overnight, newspaper La Corriere della Sera has reported.

The aftershocks were all in the same area where the larger earthquake hit in the early hours of Wednesday morning, around 100 kilometres north-east of Rome.

Many families who lost their homes in the earthquake slept in tents overnight, La Corriere della Sera said, while others chose to sleep in their cars or local sports halls.

The strongest of the aftershocks was magnitude 4.5.

Rescuers pause as they work in Amatrice, central Italy, to find people who are trapped.
Rescuers pause as they work in Amatrice, central Italy, to find people who are trapped.  Photo: AP

What we know so far

It’s now morning in Italy, almost 30 hours after the magnitude 6.2 earthquake hit at 3.30am on Wednesday local time.

Here’s what we know so far:

  • 247 people have been confirmed dead, but the death toll is expected to rise as searchers comb through rubble
  • Hundreds of others have been injured
  • The bulk of the earthquake’s devastation was in three regions: Umbria, Lazio and Marche
  • ​Amatrice, Accumoli, and Pescara del Tronto are some of the towns worst hit
  • Thousands of people have been left homeless, with many spending the night in makeshift shelters
  • The United States and Russia have offered assistance to Italy
  • Several children were found alive more than 17 hours after the quake struck
Antonio Putini, 97, sleeps as his dog keeps watch at a temporary shelter in a gymnasium in Amatrice.
Antonio Putini, 97, sleeps as his dog keeps watch at a temporary shelter in a gymnasium in Amatrice. Photo: AP

As the death tolls rises, incredible stories have emerged of children who were pulled from the rubble almost a day after the earthquake demolished homes and hotels.

In Pescara del Tronto, a 10-year-old girl was carried to safety by a firefighter after she was trapped for 17 hours.

The official social media profile of Vigili del Fuoco, firemen specialising in rescues, also posted a video of rescuers applauding as two other children were found.

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Italian quake death toll rises

Italy has woken to news that the death toll in the massive earthquake that shook the region on Wednesday has risen. 

Authorities say the number of people killed is now 247, a sharp rise from the previous toll of 159 reported several hours ago. 

The Civil Protection department in Rome said a tally by local officials showed that 190 people were killed Rieti province and 57 in the province of Ascoli Piceno.



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