Questions mount as Italy weeps for victims

The death toll from a powerful earthquake in central Italy reached at least 241 on Thursday, but officials cautioned it could rise again as rescuers continued a grim search for corpses, as powerful aftershocks rocked the devastated area.

Weeping in a campsite erected to house the homeless from a string of mountain villages, Rita Rosine, 63, said her 75-year-old sister was trapped under the ruins of a collapsed house, presumed dead.

“The situation is worse than in war. It’s awful, awful... they say it will take two days to dig her out because they have to shore up the surrounding buildings.

“She didn’t deserve to die like that, she was so good.”

As rescuers sifted through the rubble, questions mounted as to why there had been so many deaths in a thinly-populated area so soon after a 2009 earthquake in the nearby city of L’Aquila left 300 people dead.

Limited preparations

That disaster, just 50 km south, underscored the region’s vulnerability to seismic events — but preparations for a fresh quake have been exposed as limited at best.

Giuseppe Saieva, the chief public prosecutor for most of the area affected, said he would be opening an investigation into whether anyone could be held responsible for the disaster.

In Amatrice a 4.3 magnitude aftershock shook the already badly damaged village on Thursday, fuelling fears of fresh collapses.

Mayor Sergio Pirozzi said over 200 people had died in the village alone, suggesting the total number of victims could increase significantly. Amatrice has a population of around 2,500, but it was packed with visitors when the quake struck.

The fate of 28 of 32 guests staying in the village's Hotel Roma was still unclear. The Red Cross began shipping in food and water supplies for homeless residents.

Among those who came to pick up emergency provisions were Maria Atrimala, 48, and her 15-year-old daughter.

“We escaped by pure luck, the stairs of the house held and we ran, blindly in the dark and dust,” she said with tears rolling down her face. “When we got out we could hear the cries of people still trapped and we helped those we could.”

Hundreds spent the night sleeping in their cars or in hastily-assembled tents, the aftershocks adding to their discomfort.

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2021 2:11:01 AM |

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