World sends sympathy, offers aid to quake-hit Italy

8th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

Some 1,500 people were injured in the earthquake that struck the town of L’Aquila on Monday.

Paris -- From Barack Obama to Dmitry Medvedev, world leaders expressed their sympathy and queued up to pledge aid Monday as Italy reeled from an earthquake that killed at least 150 people.

As the death toll rose and rescue teams searched for survivors, the pope also offered his prayers for lives lost in the natural disaster after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi declared a state of emergency.

From Turkey, where he is on an official visit, US President Obama said: "We want to send our condolences to the families there and hope that we are able to get rescue teams in."

State Department spokesman Robert Wood said the US embassy in Rome would provide 50,000 dollars in emergency relief funding.

"Russia is shocked by this tragedy," Russian leader Medvedev said in a telegram to Berlusconi, who cancelled a trip to Moscow to lend his support at the scene. "We sympathise with those who have suffered and share their sorrow."

Officials at the Vatican, 100 kilometres (60 miles) southwest of the heart of the earthquake zone, said Pope Benedict XVI sent his prayers to the victims in L'Aquila, the capital of the Abruzzo region.

In a telegram to the archbishop of L'Aquila, the pope said he was praying for the victims, "especially the children" killed in the earthquake, which the Italian geophysical institute measured at magnitude 6.2.

L'Aquila was struck just after 3:30 am (0130 GMT) Monday by the earthquake that brought down or seriously damaged many Renaissance-era and Baroque buildings, including the dome on one of L'Aquila's centuries-old churches.

Some 1,500 people were injured, Berlusconi told a news conference, adding that a Czech student counted among the dead.

"No one will be abandoned to his fate," he said, adding a tent village would be erected to accommodate up to 20,000 people by nightfall.

Other condolences poured in, including from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who was "saddened by the loss of life and destruction of property" and ready to extend help, his spokeswoman in New York said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy messaged Berlusconi: "My thoughts are in particular with the injured, and with all those who have lost a loved one, to whom I ask you to pass on my most sad regards."

The European Union, Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Israel and Russia all stepped forward with offers of aid, although Italian civil protection head Agostino Miozzo said that was not immediately needed.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso offered his "greatest solidarity and deepest sympathy," while Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, speaking on behalf of the Czech EU presidency, said: "We are monitoring Italy's needs and we are ready to react to them."

From London, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said: "We stand ready to do what we can to help the Italian people at this difficult time."

Messages of sympathy also came from Serbia, Sweden, Portugal, Poland and Bulgaria. Both Bulgaria and Croatia offered to send search-and-rescue teams, including sniffer dogs trained to find survivors buried under rubble.

Across the Mediterranean Sea, Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali sent his "compassion and sympathy" to the families of victims, while President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Algeria expressed "sorrow and pain."

Canada's foreign minister Lawrence Cannon extended "sincerest sympathies to those who have lost their loved ones in this tragedy."


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