Saturday 24 September 2016

Rescuers race against time to find survivors as death toll from Italy earthquake reaches 250

Girl (10) pulled out alive from a wrecked home in Pescara del Tronto

Published 25/08/2016 | 13:37

A body is carried away by rescuers following an earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy, August 25, 2016
A body is carried away by rescuers following an earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy, August 25, 2016

Rescue crews in central Italy were racing against time in the search for survivors of the huge earthquake which levelled three towns, as the death toll rose to 250.

  • Go To

Aided by sniffer dogs and audio equipment, they worked through the night, using their bare hands to pull chunks of cement, rock and metal apart from mounds of rubble, looking for signs of life.

A destroyed car is seen following an earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
A destroyed car is seen following an earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
A destroyed car is seen following an earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Rescuers work on collapsed buildings following an earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca
Rescuers and people stand next a collapsed building following an earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca
People stand next collapsed buildings following an earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Rescuers work following an earthquake at Pescara del Tronto, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
The interior of an house is seen following an earthquake at Pescara del Tronto, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Remo Casilli TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A statue of the Virgin Lady stands outside a destroyed niche following an earthquake at Pescara del Tronto, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
Firefighters search through rubble following an earthquake in Accumoli, central Italy, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. A strong earthquake in central Italy reduced three towns to rubble as people slept early Wednesday, with reports that as many as 50 people were killed and hundreds injured as rescue crews raced to dig out survivors. (Angelo Carconi/ANSA via AP)
Rescuers prepare food and basic necessities following an earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca
Rescuers work on a collapsed building following an earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca
Rescuers work following an earthquake at Pescara del Tronto, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
An injured person is carried away on a stretcher following an earthquake at Pescara del Tronto, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
Rescuers work following an earthquake at Pescara del Tronto, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
The interior of an house is seen following an earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca
Rescuers work on a collapsed building following an earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca
A man leans on rubble following an earthquake in Amatrice Italy, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. A strong earthquake in central Italy reduced three towns to rubble as people slept early Wednesday, with reports that as many as 50 people were killed and hundreds injured as rescue crews raced to dig out survivors. (Massimo Percossi/ANSA via AP)
Rescuers work following an earthquake at Pescara del Tronto, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
Rescuers work on a collapsed building following an earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca
People walk with their belongings following an earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca
Rescuers prepare food and basic necessities in front of a partially collapsed building following an earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF DEATH A body is carried away by rescuers following an earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca
Rescuers prepare food and basic necessities in front of a partially collapsed building following an earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca
People and rescuers stand next collapsed buildings following an earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca
People and rescuers stand near collapsed buildings following an earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca
Rescuers work on a collapsed building following an earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca
Rescuers work on a collapsed building following an earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca
A rescuer stands in front of a collapsed building following an earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
The interior of a house is seen following an earthquake in Accumoli di Rieti, central Italy August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Steve Scherer
Rescuers work at a collapsed house following an earthquake in Accumoli di Rieti, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Steve Scherer
A woman stands in front of a collapsed house following an earthquake in Accumuli di Rieti, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Steve Scherer
A man walks amidst rubble following an earthquake in Pescara del Tronto, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Remo Casilli TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Rescuers are seen working in the rubble of collapsed and damaged houses in the village of Pescara del Tronto, central Italy, Wednesday, Aug. 24 2016 following an earthquake. The magnitude 6 quake struck at 3:36 a.m. (0136 GMT) and was felt across a broad swath of central Italy, including Rome where residents of the capital felt a long swaying followed by aftershocks. (Crocchioni/ANSA via AP)
Rescuers search for survivors through rubble after an earthquake, in Accumoli, central Italy, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. A devastating earthquake rocked central Italy early Wednesday, collapsing homes on top of residents as they slept. At least 23 people were reported dead in three hard-hit towns where rescue crews raced to dig survivors out of the rubble, but the toll was expected to rise as crews reached homes in more remote hamlets. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
A survivor looks at the collapsed buildings of the town of Pescara del Tronto, Italy, after an earthquake, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. The magnitude 6 quake struck at 3:36 a.m. (0136 GMT) and was felt across a broad swath of central Italy, including Rome where residents of the capital felt a long swaying followed by aftershocks. (Cristiano Chiodi/ANSA via AP)

A 10-year-old girl was pulled out alive from a wrecked home in Pescara del Tronto.

One area of focus was the Hotel Roma in Amatrice, famous for the Amatriciana bacon and tomato pasta sauce which brings food lovers to the medieval hilltop town each August for its food festival.

Rescuers make their way through destroyed houses following Wednesday's earthquake in Pescara Del Tronto, Italy, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016
Rescuers make their way through destroyed houses following Wednesday's earthquake in Pescara Del Tronto, Italy, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Amatrice's mayor had initially said 70 guests were in the collapsed hotel ahead of this weekend's festival, but rescue workers later halved that estimate after the owner said most people had managed to escape.

Fire service spokesman Luca Cari said one body had been pulled out of the hotel rubble just before dawn but the search was continuing there and elsewhere, even as 460 aftershocks rattled the area after the magnitude 6 earthquake struck at 3.36am on Wednesday.

"We're still in a phase that allows us to hope we'll find people alive," he said, noting that in the 2009 earthquake in nearby L'Aquila a survivor was pulled out after 72 hours.

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

Italy's civil protection agency reported that the death toll had risen to 247 early on Thursday, with at least 264 people in hospital. Most of the dead - 190 - were in Amatrice and Accumuli and their nearby hamlets.

"From here everyone survived," said Sister Mariana, one of three nuns and an elderly woman who survived the quake that flattened half of her convent in Amatrice.

"They saved each other, they took their hands even while it was falling apart, and they ran, and they survived."

She said others from another part of the convent apparently did not make it - three other nuns and four elderly women.

The civil protection agency set up tent cities around the affected towns to accommodate the homeless, 1,200 of whom took advantage of the offer to spend the night, civil protection officials said on Thursday. In Amatrice, some 50 elderly and children spent the night inside a local sports facility.

"It's not easy for them," said civil protection volunteer Tiziano De Carolis, helping to care for about 350 homeless in Amatrice.

"They have lost everything, the work of an entire life, like those who have a business, a shop, a pharmacy, a grocery store and from one day to another they discovered everything they had was destroyed."

As the search effort continued, the soul-searching began once again as Italy confronted the effects of having the highest seismic hazard in Western Europe, some of its most picturesque medieval villages, and anti-seismic building codes that are not applied to old buildings and often are not respected when new ones are built.

"In a country where in the past 40 years there have been at least eight devastating earthquakes ... the only lesson we have learned is to save lives after the fact," columnist Sergio Rizzo wrote in Thursday's Corriere della Sera. "We are far behind in the other lessons."

Experts estimate that 70% of Italy's buildings are not built to anti-seismic standards. After every major quake, proposals are made to improve, but they often languish in Italy's thick bureaucracy, funding shortages and the huge scope of trying to secure thousands of ancient towns and newer structures built before codes were passed or after the codes were in effect but in violation of them.

In recent quakes, some of these more modern buildings have been the deadliest: the university dormitory that collapsed in the 2009 L'Aquila quake, killing 11 students; the elementary school that crumbled in San Giuliano di Puglia in 2002, killing 26 children - the town's entire first-grade class. In some cases, the anti-seismic building standards have been part of the problem, including using reinforced cement for roofs that are then too heavy for weak walls when quakes strike.

Premier Matteo Renzi, visiting the quake-affected area on Wednesday, promised to rebuild "and guarantee a reconstruction that will allow residents to live in these communities, to relaunch these beautiful towns that have a wonderful past that will never end".

While the government is already looking ahead to reconstruction, rescue workers on the ground still had days and weeks of work ahead of them.

In hard-hit Pescara del Tronto, firefighter Franco Mantovan said early on Thursday that crews knew of three residents still under the rubble, but in a hard-to-reach area.

In the evening there, about 17 hours after the quake struck, firefighters pulled a 10-year-old girl out alive from the rubble of a home.

"You can hear something under here. Quiet, quiet," one rescue worker said, before soon urging her on: "Come on, Giulia, come on, Giulia."

Cheers erupted when she was pulled out.

But there were wails when bodies emerged.

"Unfortunately, 90% we pull out are dead, but some make it, that's why we are here," said Christian Bianchetti, a volunteer from Rieti who was working in devastated Amatrice.

Online Editors

Read More

Promoted articles

Editors Choice

Also in World News