Time running out as Italy quake death toll tops 240

Italy earthquake: Rescuers race to find survivors

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The death toll from a devastating earthquake that
hit and flattened central Italian towns
has soared to
more than 240 as rescuers desperately searched
through the night for survivors under the ruins of
collapsed buildings.
With 368 people injured, some critically, and an
unknown number still trapped in mountains of
rubble on Thursday morning, the toll was expected
to rise further.
Wednesday’s pre-dawn earthquake razed homes
and buckled roads in a cluster of mountain
communities 140km east of Italy’s capital, Rome. It
was powerful enough to be felt in Bologna to the
north and Naples to the south, each more than
200km from the epicentre.
The US Geological Survey said it was a 6.2
magnitude quake that hit near the town of Norcia,
in the region of Umbria.

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The death toll is 247 as of Thursday morning, the
country’s civil protection agency said. The toll had
stood at 159 on Wednesday night.
Hundreds of people spent a chilly night in hastily
assembled tents with the risk of aftershocks
making it too risky for them to return home.
“Tonight will be our first nightmare night,” said
Alessandro Gabrielli, one of hundreds preparing to
sleep in tents in fields and parking lots in the small
town of Amatrice, each one housing 12 people
whose homes had been destroyed.
“Last night, I woke up with a sound that sounded
like a bomb,” he told the Reuters news agency.
One hotel that collapsed in Amatrice probably had
about 70 guests, and only seven bodies had so far
been recovered, said the mayor of the town that
was one of the worst hit by the earthquake.
“Half the town is gone,” Sergio Pirozzi told RAI
state television. “There are people under the rubble
… There’s been a landslide and a bridge might
collapse.”

Besides Amatrice, the worst-hit towns were
believed to be Accumoli, Posta and Arquata del
Tronto, Luca Cari, fire department spokesman, told
Reuters news agency, adding that helicopters
would be sent up at first light to assess the
damage.
Guido Bordo, 69, said that the holiday house of his
sister and her husband near Accumoli died under
their collapsed holiday house.
“I was not here. As soon as the quake happened, I
rushed here. They managed to pull my sister’s
children out, they’re in hospital now,” said.
A hostel on the Gran Sasso mountain, a popular
area for hikers and climbers, said on its Facebook
page that a large piece of rock had collapsed as a
result of the tremor.

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Gilberto Saccorotti, a geologist at Italy’s National
Institute for Geophysics and Volcanology, told Al
Jazeera: “That particular area has a long history of
very [powerful], very energetic seismicity. It’s not
surprising to have had a [powerful] earthquake
there.
“From my knowledge of the area, the roads are
very narrow, so if one road fails, the connection
may become very difficult … The depth is quite
shallow, about four kilometres. Usually the typical
depth is in the order of ten kilometres.”
Saccarotti said it was difficult to predict whether
there would be another earthquake or more
aftershocks.
The last major earthquake to hit Italy struck the
central city of L’Aquila in 2009, killing more than
300 people.

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