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Grim Search To Go On In Italy’s Quake Zone

Prime Minister Says Search Will Continue For 48 Hours, Updates Death Toll To 207, With 15 Still Missing

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An excavator lifts rubble of collapsed buildings in L’Aquila, central Italy, Tuesday, April 7, 2009.  (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

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Deadly Quake Rocks Italy

A powerful earthquake rocked central Italy overnight and, as Allen Pizzey reports, at least 100 are dead, 1,500 are injured and tens of thousands are homeless. | Share/Embed

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(CBS/AP)  Rescuers worked frantically in this central Italian city early Tuesday, scooping through piles of rubble with their hands in the search for survivors after the country’s deadliest earthquake in nearly three decades.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Tuesday that the search effort would continue for another 48 hours. He said 207 people had been confirmed dead in the disaster and another 15 were still known to be missing amid the rubble.

Berlusconi said that at least 100 of the roughly 1,000 injured people are in serious condition. He says 190 of the victims have been identified.

A powerful 4.9-magnitude aftershock sent rescue workers and survivors scrambling.

Tens of thousands of people left homeless by the powerful 5.8-magnitude quake slept in makeshift tents that provided little protection against the chilly mountain air; scores of survivors lined up early Tuesday for a hot cup of coffee.

Workers dug through the night under powerful lights even as aftershocks continued to spook survivors. Mounting piles of rubble contained evidence of shattered lives: torn clothing, ripped stuffed animals and broken furniture.

Entire blocks were flattened in the mountain city of L’Aquila and nearby villages by Monday’s temblor.

Firefighters said they had pulled 100 people alive from rubble in the area.

“All of a sudden I heard a boom, and all the books and knickknacks fell down,” said Lucia Ferro, a 57-year-old resident who rushed out of her third-floor apartment wearing only her pajamas. “I saw the walls shake, and the table moved by itself.”

The quake hit 26 towns and cities around L’Aquila, which lies in a valley surrounded by the Apennine mountains. The nearby village of Onna was nearly leveled, with 38 people out of some 300 inhabitants dead, rescue officials said. Rescuers were still trying to reach more isolated hamlets on Tuesday.

Firefighters with dogs and a crane worked feverishly to reach people trapped in fallen buildings, including a university dormitory where a half-dozen students were believed still trapped.

One body was pulled out after daybreak Tuesday, and rescuers continued to dig for three or four still trapped inside, who rescuers feared were dead.

Overnight, rescuers pulled a scared-looking dog with a bleeding paw out of the dormitory rubble. Relatives and friends of the missing stood wrapped in blankets or huddled under umbrellas in the rain as workers pulled out pieces of what seemed like an armoire, a smashed chair, photographs, wallets and diaries.

Elsewhere in L’Aquila, firefighters reported pulling a 21-year-old woman and a 22-year-man from what was an apartment building where many students rented flats. The building’s five stories had pancaked into one slab of concrete.

It’s not in our culture to construct buildings the right way in a quake zone — that is, build buildings that can resist (quakes) and retrofit old ones. This has never been done.

Enzo Boschi,
National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology
“Officials said some 10,000 to 15,000 buildings were either damaged or destroyed, and at least 50,000 people were left homeless.

The earthquake that devastated L’Aquila would likely have caused only limited damage in Japan and other affluent countries in quake-prone regions, but a variety of factors conspire to make Italy particularly vulnerable, experts said.

L’Aquila sits only about a half mile from the epicenter of Monday’s quake, and the temblor was centered close to the surface, which usually leads to greater destruction, reported CBS News correspondent Allen Pizzey, but geologists and civil engineers attributed most of the damage to inadequate buildings.

“The collapses that occurred in Abruzzo involved houses that weren’t built to withstand a quake that wasn’t particularly violent,” said Enzo Boschi, president of the National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology.

“We get all worked up after every earthquake, but it’s not in our culture to construct buildings the right way in a quake zone – that is, build buildings that can resist (quakes) and retrofit old ones. This has never been done,” Boschi said.

Photos: Italy Earthquake Aftermath
An excavator lifts rubble of collapsed buildings, in L’Aquila, central Italy, Tuesday, April 7, 2009. (Photo: AP)
Franco Barberi, a leading geologist and disaster expert, expressed frustration about Italy’s lack of protection for buildings in earthquake territory.

“What makes one angry is, if this happened in California or in Japan or some other country where for some time they have been practicing anti-seismic protection,” a similar quake “wouldn’t have caused a single death,” Barberi said on state television.

Giorgio Croci, a Rome-based engineer and expert on ancient monuments like the Colosseum in the Italian capital, singled out building methods as a key factor in L’Aquila’s damage.

Damage to monuments was reported as far away as Rome, where cracks appeared at the thermal baths built in the 3rd century by the emperor Caracalla, Culture Ministry official Giuseppe Proietti said.

L’Aquila, a city of some 70,000 that is capital of the Abruzzo region, was near the epicenter about 70 miles northeast of Rome in a quake prone region that had felt at least nine smaller jolts since the beginning of April. Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics put the magnitude at 5.8. More than a dozen aftershocks followed.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi declared a state of emergency, freeing up millions in euros to deal with the disaster, and canceled a visit to Russia so he could deal with the crisis.

Condolences poured in from around the world, including from President Obama, Pope Benedict XVI and Abdullah Gul, president of quake-prone Turkey.

Part of L’Aquila’s main hospital was evacuated for fear of collapse, and only two operating rooms were in use. Bloodied victims waited in hospital hallways or in the courtyard and many were being treated in the open.

At one of five tent camps set up, survivors received bread and water. People lay on the grass next to heaps of their belongings.

“It’s a catastrophe and an immense shock,” said resident Renato Di Stefano, who had moved with his family to the camp as a precaution.

“It’s struck in the heart of the city, we will never forget the pain.”

This was Italy’s deadliest quake since Nov. 23, 1980, when a 6.9-magnitude quake hit southern regions, leveling villages and causing some 3,000 deaths.

The last major quake to hit central Italy was a 5.4-magnitude temblor that struck the south-central Molise region on Oct. 31, 2002, killing 28 people, of which 27 were children who died when their school collapsed.

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