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 operations to find the remaining survivors of the earthquake which struck the Italian city of L’Aquila continued late into the night on Monday.
The death toll has reached 150 according to hospital sources, and some 50,000 have been left homeless and will spend their first night away from home, say public safety sources.
Most of the dead were in L'Aquila, a thirteenth century mountain city about 100 kilometres east of Rome, and nearby towns and villages in the Abruzzo region.
The 6.2-magnitude quake struck shortly after 3:30 am local time and tremors could be felt in the Italian capital of Rome more than 80 kilometres away.
Rubble from collapsed buildings – including old churches – in the historic town blocked many streets.
Reporting from L’Aquila, FRANCE 24’s Alexis Masciarelli said that small tremors had been felt throughout the day. “I’ve been feeling the aftershocks all day,” says Masciarelli, “we feel long tremors two or three times an hour. Every time, the residents stand still and look around with fear.”
Concern over residents living in remote villages
Twenty-six towns and villages in the mountainous region of Abruzzo were seriously hit by the earthquake.
“A colleague returning from the village of Paganica reported that all the residents had been evacuated because it was feared that the only standing building in the village could collapse,” added Masciarelli.
Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has declared a state of emergency and cancelled a trip to Russia in order to visit the Abruzzo region.
In a press conference in L’Aquila on Monday, Berlusconi said that 1,500 people were injured and vowed that nobody “would be abandoned to his fate.”
He added that a tent village was being set up that could accommodate between 16,000 and 20,000 people and would be ready by nightfall.
‘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 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, said Masciarelli.
Speaking to FRANCE 24 shortly after the quake struck, a client at the Hotel 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 pyjamas – and so is everyone else,” he said.
A history of seismic activity in the region
The quake was the latest and strongest in a series to hit l'Aquila late on Sunday and early on Monday.
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