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Earthquake kills at least 150, flattens buildings

Video by Gwladys SAVERY , James CREEDON

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-04-06

A powerful earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale rocked central Italy early on Monday, killing more than 150 people, according to rescue workers. Rescuers combed through the debris of collapsed buildings, desperately seeking survivors.

Rescue workers desperately combed through the rubble trying to reach trapped survivors after a quake struck the university town of L'Aquila around 3:30 am local time on Monday, killing at least 150, according to hospital sources, and causing residents to flee in the dead of night.


Tremors could be felt in the Italian capital of Rome more than 80 kilometers away.



Rubble from collapsed buildings – including old churches – in the historic town blocked many streets. A number of people are believed to be buried in the debris and officials fear the death toll could rise.


Reporting from L'Aquila, FRANCE 24’s Alexis Masciarelli said rescue workers were searching through the rubble and they were aided by local residents who had come out to help the rescue mission.


“What we don’t really know so far is what has happened in the small villages around this town in this mountainous region,” said Masciarelli. “There are a lot of places that are quite remote, bridges have fallen, so it’s very difficult to get information from these places.”


‘Buildings crumbled, the ground was shaking’


 Driving from Rome to L’Aquila earlier on Monday, Masciarelli said there were scenes of shock in the villages around the town.


“People here are out in the streets, meeting around little fires that they have lit to fight the cold,” he said. “There are very worried faces here – they are worried about the possibility of aftershocks and they are worried about their relatives and friends in the region from whom they have no news.”


 Phone lines and power supplies were cut in the region due to the quake, adding to the panic, added Masciarelli.


A medieval town of about 60,000 inhabitants, L’Aquila is a popular tourist destination dotted with picturesque Romanesque and Renaissance churches. Local authorities said thousands have fled their homes as officials were still calculating the material damage from the quake.


Speaking to FRANCE 24 shortly after the quake struck, a client at the Hôtel San Miguel in L’Aquila said he was woken up by the tremors. “I had to rush from my room because there were violent tremors, buildings crumbled, the ground was shaking, I mean I’m still in my pajamas – and so is everyone else,” he said.


A history of seismic activity in the region


The US Geological Survey initially put the scale of the quake at 6.7 but later lowered it to 6.2. Italian officials put the magnitude at about 5.8.


The quake was the latest and strongest in a series to hit the l'Aquila late Sunday and early Monday.


Speaking to FRANCE 24 from Colorado, Raphael Abreu, a geophysicist at the US Geological Survey, said the region has a history of seismic activity. A powerful earthquake in the region in 1997 killed 13 people, injured about 100 and damaged or destroyed cultural heritage structures.


“There have been other quakes in the region within the last century and they have also been in the magnitude of the 6 and 7 range on the Richter scale,” said Abreu.


In Oct. 2002, a quake killed 30 people, including 27 pupils and their teacher who were crushed under their schoolhouse in the tiny medieval village of San Giuliano di Puglia.



Date created : 2009-04-06