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Quake death toll rises to 267 as hopes fade of finding more survivors

The number of earthquake victims in Italy is now 267, police said on Wednesday. As hope of finding more survivors fades, Italy is preparing for mass burials on Friday.

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A powerful aftershock hit central Italy shortly after dawn Wednesday, rattling residents and rescue workers who were racing against time to find survivors two days after the first massive earthquake hit the region.

The death toll in central Italy's earthquake has risen to 267, police said on Wednesday. Speaking earlier in L'Aquila, PM Silvio Berlusconi said that mass burials would be held on Friday in the city, capital of Abruzzo.

Wednesday morning’s aftershock followed a series of tremors overnight that have demolished structures weakened by the original 6.2 magnitude quake.

A sea of blue tents is spreading across open fields and stadiums in villages surrounding the medieval town of L’Aquila, which suffered some of the worst damage from the quake. Tens of thousands of people who lost their homes have sought shelter in these tents amid fears of further aftershocks.

Reporting from Paganica, a village near L’Aquila, FRANCE 24’s Alexis Masciarelli said the main concern was access to water, especially potable water. “All the pipes around this region have been destroyed and there is no more running water arriving here,” said Masciarelli.

Nearly 1,000 people were injured in Monday’s quake, about 100 of them seriously, according to Italian medical officials.

Hopes for survivors remain

More than 48 hours after the quake, hopes remained that survivors would be found among the rubble.

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said the search and recovery mission would go on through Thursday, and added that 7,000 police, soldiers and emergency service personnel were participating in the effort.

On Tuesday, Italian media covered the rescue of 98-year-old Maria D'Antuono, who was pulled out the rubble in L’Aquila alive and well. She told the ANSA news service she had been crocheting while waiting for rescue workers to reach her.

Hours later, a 20-year-old woman was pulled out of the ruins of a collapsed four-storey structure as a cheer went out from the crowd of rescue workers and onlookers gathered at the spot.

But in some of the worst affected villages dotting this picturesque mountainous terrain, hopes were beginning to fade, according to Masciarelli.

“I was in the village of Onna,” said Masciarelli, “which is home to some 300 people, 40 of whom were killed and there, there’s no more hope of finding any survivors.”

Across the country, Italians were preparing for a sombre Easter, with the first burial service scheduled for Friday, which also happens to be Good Friday in this deeply Catholic country.

In the first official estimate of the financial cost of the disaster, the Italian government said some 1.3 billion euros would be needed to repair or rebuild the some 10,000 buildings damaged in the quake.

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