Italy quake: Emergency declared as hopes for more survivors fade


In pictures: Shocking images from Italy earthquake that killed 250 people

A series of aftershocks rattled rescuers and residents racing to find survivors following a massive quake in central Italy as the death toll jumped overnight to 267.

Maria and Will Henniker-Gotley, 51 and 55, and Marcos Burnett, 14, were killed when a 6.2-magnitude quake struck the town of Amatrice on Wednesday.

The force of one early-morning aftershock damaged a bridge into Amatrice, complicating rescue efforts in the devastated town.

Meanwhile, Italy’s prime minister Matteo Renzi has pledged some 50 million euros in funds to rebuild the affected structures.

The quake levelled three small towns and has left at least 250 people dead.

Central Italy is home to many historic buildings, which are the backbone of the region’s tourism industry.

Dozens of emergency workers with sniffer dogs clambered over piles of debris trying to find anyone still trapped, while cranes removed huge slabs of fallen masonry and trucks full of rubble left the area every few minutes.

After a 2009 natural disaster in nearby L’Aquila left 300 people dead, authorities released €1bn to upgrade buildings in the region, but takeup has been low.

Fireman and volunteer rescue worker Claudio Catanese, 32, said the work is hard and nonstop.

Worst affected by the quake were the tiny towns of Amatrice and Accumoli near Rieti, 100 kilometers (60 miles) northeast of Rome, and Pescara del Tronto, 25 kilometers (15 miles) further to the east.

“Hundreds have been declared dead and many injured, starving and homeless”. Some survivors, escorted by firefighters, were allowed to go back inside briefly to get essential necessities for what will surely be an extended absence. “We slept in the vehicle last night, though with the quakes it was hard to sleep at all”, he told AFP between sips of Coke.

He says he knows it’s not a lot, but that if many people take part it could make a real difference.

The UK foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, said on Thursdaythat a number of Britons had been affected by the quake and extra staff had been sent to the region.

The Government has offered “any assistance that we can” to the Italian authorities.

Charitable assistance began pouring into the natural disaster zone in traffic-clogging droves on Thursday.

Approximately 400 victims are being treated in hospitals, 40 of them in critical condition, the Civil Protection Agency said.

There is little doubt the casualties count will be rising on Friday, to exceed the 300 people who died in the previous major L’ Acquila quake of 2009.

Two Romanians, a Canadian, a Spanish national and one woman from El Salvador were also killed, according to the countries’ respective foreign ministries.

Journalist Lucy Kafanov tweeted that Amatrice’s mayor had said several bridges were “now unusable making the town inaccessible” and that officials were looking to build an alternate route.

In addition, Renzi canceled fees for residents of the affected areas and announced a new initiative, “Case Italy”, created to prevent poor construction.

Meanwhile, Renzi announced plans to help the country prepare better and address poor building standards, saying Italy should “have a plan that is not just limited to the management of emergency situations”. “You realise it is an aftershock because you see the electricity poles shaking, and you realise it is not your knees shaking, but an aftershock”, said Nicola Poli.

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