Italy earthquake: death toll climbed to 250
Survivors still found
Italian emergency workers in L`Aquila pulled more earthquake survivors from the rubble overnight as local officials said the death toll had climbed to 250, The Daily Telegraph reported.
A 20-year-old woman was rescued 42 hours after the building she was in collapsed but hopes were fading fast of finding further survivors.
Eleonora Calesini was found buried amid a 30ft pile of rubble which was the remains of an apartment block, next to a playground with slides and swings.
She was conscious throughout and suffered injuries to her arm.
Dozens of powerful aftershocks threatened to demolish severely fractured buildings added to the difficulties of the rescue effort.
A 98-year-old woman who was pulled alive from rubble in the medieval mountain town of L`Aquila told rescuers she spent the time knitting while she waited to be saved.
A 24-year-old student was also found alive, after spending 23 hours underneath a collapsed four-storey building.
Several more people were still missing on Tuesday night but the prospect of finding them alive dwindled by the hour, as emergency workers used their bare hands to dig through rubble and reports of looting added to the misery of survivors. One firefighter broke down after finding his dead daughter in the rubble of a collapsed house.
Firefighters said four students remained trapped in a university dormitory that collapsed in L`Aquila, but tearful emergency personnel would not say if they were alive or dead.
"Unless there is a miracle, I`ve been told (by rescuers) that they probably are dead," said the rector of L`Aquila University, Ferdinando Di Orio.
Firemen started evacuating the area around the building, which was listing dangerously and had gaping holes in its side, in preparation for "surgically" removing big chunks of the building to reach the four students.
A fireman dangled from the end of a crane winch as he was hoisted over the building to determine how to proceed without bringing it crashing down.
"The hope of finding anyone under the rubble now is very small," said a civil protection agency official.
L`Aquila, which lies amid the snow-capped Apennine Mountains 60 miles east of Rome, was a ghost town, its historic streets deserted apart from journalists and the estimated 6,000 police, soldiers and rescue workers who have been deployed to deal with the emergency.
The town`s cathedral and several of its churches were among the Renaissance and Baroque buildings to be damaged, with 16th century bell towers and cupolas crashing to the ground. Modern apartment blocks also crumpled, their steel girders twisted and exposed.
The town`s 70,000 inhabitants fled for the safety of relatives` homes, the few hotels that were not judged too dangerous to remain open, or the tented camps set up by emergency services in fields and sports centres.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, on a tour of the devastated area, said 207 people were now confirmed dead in the worst quake to strike Italy in 30 years.
Nearly 40 came from the nearby hamlet of Onna, population 300, where houses were flattened and the streets filled with rubble in scenes reminiscent of a battle zone.
"We lost 15 members of our family. Babies and children died," 70-year-old retiree Virgilio Colajanni said as he choked back tears.
Of around 1,500 people injured, about 100 were in serious condition.
Mr Berlusconi said 15,000 people who had been left homeless by the earthquake would be accommodated in 20 tent camps equipped with field kitchens.
"I thank foreign countries for their solidarity, but we ask them not to send us aid," he said. "We can handle the needs on our own. We are a proud people and we have the means."
He said the search would go on for another 48 hours, "until it is certain that there is no one else alive."
Mr Berlusconi has put his political credibility on the line with a pledge to build a new town near L`Aquila within two years and a promise that none of the victims of the quake would be forgotten.
Italy is used to seeing huge public works promised but never delivered, with funds siphoned off by corruption or the mafia. In Sicily, people are still living in emergency huts built for victims of a quake in 1908.
Reconstructing the towns and villages of the Abruzzo region, described by emergency workers as "an Apocalyptic vision", will be an immense challenge for a country with the world`s third highest public debt and an economy now deep in recession.
Many of the survivors of this latest earthquake were deeply sceptical that the massive reconstruction effort would be forthcoming.
"I have zero faith in Berlusconi`s promises," one woman said. "No, let me rephrase that, less than zero."
But others have faith in the government. "All of L`Aquila is praying for money from the state and for Signor Berlusconi to keep his word," said shop assistant Donatella Di Sibio, 33, who had returned to her 17th century stone house to recover a pet parakeet which she had abandoned when the quake struck on Monday.
"It was only a month ago that we finished restoring the house. Everything is ruined. It will be very expensive to rebuild." Public anger was growing, with many people saying there had been impending signs of a large quake and they should have been warned to prepare for the worst.
"It`s a scandal, what`s happened," said Maria Francesco, of L`Aquila. "For the past three months there have been regular tremors, and they`ve been getting stronger and stronger."
Italy`s national geophysical institute said 280 aftershocks had been recorded since the main quake at 3.32am local time on Monday morning.
An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 buildings have been damaged or destroyed by the earthquake, the worst to affect Italy since 1980.
Teams of experts are expected to soon start surveying those buildings still standing to see if people can move back in.