Italy's quake: 'looking, looking' for survivors

7th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

Sobbing friends and relatives of those trapped inside comforted each other with hugs or jockeyed for position, pushing in front of police barricades to get a better view.

L'Aquila -- The four-storey building that once housed eight families in the heart of L'Aquila fell like a house of cards at dawn on Monday.

Hours later, dozens of people hovered anxiously as rescue workers went about the grim task of pulling out survivors from the rubble in the medieval capital of the Abruzzo region in central Italy.

Sobbing friends and relatives of those trapped inside comforted each other with hugs or jockeyed for position, pushing in front of police barricades to get a better view.

Firefighters, public safety workers, police and volunteers worked tirelessly on the immense pile of rubble and concrete.

"My brother lives there and he's missing," said a woman of about 40, her voice choked with emotion. "My husband's been up there ... looking, looking, looking, since four in the morning," she said. "I'm losing hope."

Dogs had detected at least two survivors desperate for rescue, while one of their handlers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there might be as many as four.

At regular intervals the foreman ordered absolute silence. After workers cut the engines of their steam shovels and crane, he called out once again to check on the exact location of Maria, a resident whose muffled cries for help had reached the rescuers' ears.

All the onlookers were looking for someone who used to call the building home.

Chiara Piscini, around 20, said: "I have a friend who lives here. I hope they're going to pull her out alive. I'll wait -- I don't know what else to do." Hiding her tears behind large dark glasses, she said: "(The earthquake) was terrible last night, so strong."

A rescue worker, sweating from the effort and covered in dust, told AFP: "I arrived at nine this morning from Rome with my dog. It's very hard, and it's long as well."

He added, his voice trailing: "As long as it's still light we're all right, but after that ..."

L'Aquila, the quake's epicentre some 100 kilometres (60 miles) northeast of Rome, looked like a ghost town, many buildings gone except for their cracked facades.

Firetrucks and ambulances continued their macabre rounds, while hundreds of people joined an exodus out of the crippled city, by car or on foot, some still in the pyjamas they were wearing when the quake struck.

A tent village with room for between 16,000 and 20,000 people was being set up and would be ready by nightfall, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said during a visit to the scene.

At least 150 people have died in the quake, 1,500 have been injured and 50,000 made homeless, officials said, warning that the death toll could rise much higher.

AFP/Expatica

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