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Rescue workers search in rubble after strong quake in Italy kills 150


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Wouldn't Italy, a nation which suffers from earthquakes periodically, have in recent decades started a building trend towards structure designs which are more resistant and safer from earthquakes? Like the ones they have in Japan? Or many of the older building s with older fascades in such towns like the one below are only structurally reinforced without thinking about those changes like those in Japan?  ???


Strong quake in Italy kills over 150, wounds 1,500
By MARTA FALCONI, Associated Press Writer Marta Falconi, Associated Press Writer – 1 hr 34 mins ago
L'AQUILA, Italy – Rescue workers using bare hands and buckets searched frantically for students believed buried in a wrecked dormitory after Italy's deadliest quake in nearly three decades struck this medieval city before dawn Monday, killing more than 150 people, injuring 1,500 and leaving tens of thousands homeless. The 6.3-magnitude earthquake buckled both ancient and modern buildings in and around L'Aquila, snuggled in a valley surrounded by the snowcapped Apennines' tallest peaks.

It also took a severe toll on the centuries-old castles and churches in the mountain stronghold dating from the Middle Ages, and the Culture Ministry drew up a list of landmarks that were damaged, including collapsed bell towers and cupolas.

The quake, centered near L'Aquila about 70 miles northeast of Rome, struck at 3:32 a.m. Monday, followed by a series of aftershocks that continued into Tuesday morning.

Firefighters with dogs and a crane worked feverishly to reach people trapped in fallen buildings, including a dormitory of the University of L'Aquila where a half- dozen students were believed trapped inside.

After nightfall Monday, rescuers found a scared-looking dog with a bleeding paw in the half-collapsed dorm. Relatives and friends of the missing stood wrapped in blankets or huddled under umbrellas in the rain as rescuers found pieces of furniture, photographs, wallets and diaries, but none of the missing.

The body of a male student was found during the daylight hours.

"We managed to come down with other students but we had to sneak through a hole in the stairs as the whole floor came down," said Luigi Alfonsi, 22, his eyes filling with tears and his hands trembling. "I was in bed — it was like it would never end as I heard pieces of the building collapse around me."

Another another body was pulled from the dormitory rubble early Tuesday morning, but no further details were immediately available.

Twice after midnight, rescuers were forced to briefly retreat from the scene when aftershocks dislodged more building rubble.

Elsewhere in town, firefighters reported pulling a 21-year-old woman and a 22-year-man from a pancaked five-story apartment building where many students had rented flats.

Amid aftershocks, survivors hugged one another, prayed quietly or tried to call relatives. Residents covered in dust pushed carts of clothes and blankets that they had thrown together before fleeing their homes.

Slabs of walls, twisted steel supports, furniture and wire fences were strewn in the streets, and gray dust was everywhere. A body lay on the sidewalk, covered by a white sheet.

Residents and rescue workers hauled debris from collapsed buildings by hand or in a bucket brigade. Firefighters pulled a woman covered in dust from her four-story home. Rescue crews demanded quiet as they listened for signs of life from inside.

RAI television showed rescue workers gingerly pulling a man clad only in his underwear from a crumbled building. He embraced one of his rescuers and sobbed loudly as others placed a jacket around his shoulders. Although shaken and covered in dust, the man was able to walk.

Some 10,000 to 15,000 buildings were either damaged or destroyed, officials said. L'Aquila Mayor Massimo Cialente said about 100,000 people were homeless. It was not clear if his estimate included surrounding towns.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi said in a TV interview that more than 150 people were killed and more than 1,500 were injured. He had already declared a state of emergency, freeing federal funds for the disaster, and canceled a trip to Russia.

The quake hit 26 towns and cities around L'Aquila. Castelnuovo, a hamlet of about 300 people southeast of L'Aquila, appeared hard hit with five confirmed dead. The town of Onno, population 250, was almost leveled.

Pope Benedict XVI prayed "for the victims, in particular for children," and sent a condolence message to the archbishop of L'Aquila, the Vatican said. Condolences poured in from around the world, including from President Barack Obama.

Parts of L'Aquila's main hospital were evacuated due to the risk of collapse, and only two operating rooms were in use. Bloodied victims waited in corridors or a courtyard, and many were being treated in the open. A field hospital was being set up.

The four-star, 133-room Hotel Duca degli Abruzzi in L'Aquila's historic center was heavily damaged but still standing, said Ornella De Luca of the national civil protection agency in Rome.

Though not a major tourist destination like Rome, Venice or Florence, L'Aquila boasts ancient fortifications and tombs of saints.

Many Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance landmarks were damaged, including part of the red-and-white stone basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio. The church houses the tomb of its founder, Pope Celestine V — a 13th-century hermit and saint who was the only pontiff to resign from the post.

The bell tower of the 16th-century San Bernardino church and the cupola of the Baroque Sant'Agostino church also fell, the ministry said. Stones tumbled down from the city's cathedral, which was rebuilt after a 1703 earthquake.

"The damage is more serious than we can imagine," said Giuseppe Proietti, a Culture Ministry official. "The historic center of L'Aquila has been devastated."

The city's own cultural offices, housed in a 16th-century Spanish castle, were shut down by damage, Proietti said. The damaged fortifications, once perfectly preserved, are also home to a museum of archaeology and art.

L'Aquila, whose name means "The Eagle" in Italian, was built around 1240 by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II and was under French, Spanish and papal domination during the centuries. The high-flying bird was both the emblem of Frederick and reflects the 2,300-foot altitude of the proud city.

Proietti said in a telephone interview that reports from the countryside showed many villages around L'Aquila had been heavily damaged, including churches "of great historical interest."

Damage to monuments was reported as far as Rome, with minor cracks at the thermal baths built in the 3rd century by Emperor Caracalla, he said.

A makeshift tent city was set up on a sports field on the outskirts of L'Aquila. Civil protection officials distributed bread and water to evacuees.

"It's a catastrophe and an immense shock," said Renato Di Stefano, who moved his family to the camp. "It's struck in the heart of the city. We will never forget the pain."

It was Italy's deadliest quake since Nov. 23, 1980, when one measuring 6.9-magnitude hit southern regions, leveling villages and killing 3,000.

Many modern structures have failed to hold up to the rigors of quakes along Italy's mountainous spine or in coastal cities like Naples. Despite warnings by geologists and architects, some of these buildings have not been retrofitted for seismic safety.

"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.

Meanwhile, Giampaolo Giuliani, a researcher for a physics lab in the nearby Gran Sasso, claimed in media interviews that he forecast the quake days earlier by measuring the amount of radon gas released by the earth, but was muzzled by officials.

Giuliani said Monday that he was placed under investigation by prosecutors for causing alarm after he sent warnings of a pending quake in the Sulmona area — 30 miles south of L'Aquilato.

Boschi, reiterating a firmly held scientific position, said quakes can't be predicted. And he specifically dismissed the radon gas theory.

"The information was completely wrong, he forecast it for Sulmona," Boschi told reporters. "Imagine if we had accepted such data and evacuated Sulmona, most of the evacuees would have been in L'Aquila today," Boschi said.

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


Associated Press writers Ariel David and Frances D'Emilio in Rome contributed to this report.
And the toll reportedly rises, unfortunately, while strong aftershocks also hit.


Italy rocked by strong aftershocks; Woman rescued
By MARTA FALCONI, Associated Press Writer Marta Falconi, Associated Press Writer
1 hr 42 mins ago

L'AQUILA, Italy – Strong aftershocks Tuesday sent a fresh wave of fear across earthquake-shattered central Italy, and rescue crews pulled a young woman alive from a collapsed building about 42 hours after the main quake struck the mountainous region. Eleonora Calesini, a 20-year-old student, was found alive in the ruins of the five-story building in central L'Aquila, said her grandfather, Renato Calesini, in the seaside town of Mondaini.

"She's safe!" he told The Associated Press, adding that her father had gone to devastated city in the snowcapped Apennine mountains to try to locate the student, who wears a hearing aid. She reportedly had an arm injury but was in good condition otherwise.

The death toll from Italy's worst earthquake in three decades climbed to 235, with 15 still missing, civil protection officials said. The dead included four students trapped in the rubble of a dormitory of the University of L'Aquila, the ANSA news agency reported.

Rescue crews gave up gingerly removing debris by hand and brought in huge pincers that pulled off parts of the dorm roof, balconies and walls, showering debris down.

"Unless there is a miracle, I've been told (by rescuers) that they probably are dead," university rector Ferdinando Di Orio said.

A strong aftershock at 7:47 p.m. rained debris on screaming residents and rescue crews, who ran from the site.

"I want to go home! I want to go home!" screamed a woman identified only as Patrizia after chunks of facade rained down on them from a badly cracked building.

Her hands trembled as rescue workers gave her a cup of water. Her boyfriend, Agostino Paride, 33, an engineer, said they had driven to L'Aquila from Civitella Rovedo, some 45 miles away, to bring food and clothes to relatives in a tent camp.

To shelter the homeless against another chilly night in the mountains, some 20 tent cities sprouted in open spaces around L'Aquila and surrounding towns. Field kitchens, medical supplies and clowns with bubbles — to entertain traumatized children — were brought in.

Officials estimated Monday that 50,000 people had been left homeless by the quake. By Tuesday evening, that number was lowered to between 17,000 and 25,000, because many moved in with friends or relatives.

"I don't know how I'll make it," a dazed Pierina Diletti said as she stood in slippers and her nightgown outside her tent.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi, who visited one of the encampments, said an estimated 14,500 people were being sheltered in the blue tents.

Officials said some 10,000 to 15,000 buildings were either damaged or destroyed in the 26 cities, towns and villages around L'Aquila, a picturesque city of 70,000. Teams planned to begin surveying those buildings still standing on Wednesday to see if residents could move back in.

"The assessment will concern every room, every slit, every crack," Berlusconi told a news conference, adding that assessments of the region's prized cultural treasures — churches, monuments and other historical sites — would begin soon.

Berlusconi surveyed the devastated region by helicopter and said rescue efforts would continue for two more days — "until it is certain that there is no one else alive." At least 100 of about 1,000 injured people were in serious condition, he said.

Experts say the vast majority of buildings in the most vulnerable regions of earthquake-prone Italy don't meet modern seismic safety standards.

Nearly half of Italy is labeled "dangerous" in terms of seismic activity, according to a 2008 report by Enzo Boschi, president of the National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology, and other Italian geologists and civil protection experts. But only 14 percent of buildings in that vulnerable swath were built to seismic-safety standards, the report said.

In the seaside town of Pescara, 16 families were sheltered at the Hotel Ambra, which offered free rooms to quake victims. "They are a little traumatized," hotel business manager Vincenzo Traversa said. "It is not a beautiful experience."

So far, 6,500 hotel beds across the Abruzzo region were made available and 4,000 filled by Tuesday afternoon, said Emilio Schirato, president of Abruzzo's hotel association. Schirato said the rooms were made available "spontaneously" by hotel owners as a gesture of solidarity.

But some people pretending to have lost their homes had sought to get free hotel rooms, Schirato said. Carabinieri police were trying to verify that people being housed were in fact deserving, he said.

In L'Aquila and surrounding towns, many took shelter in their cars.

"It was a bad night," said Francesco Marchi, 18, who slept in his car with his brother in a piazza far from buildings, fearing falling debris from aftershocks. "It was really cold, but we had sleeping bags."

Two buildings in the suburb of Pettino collapsed following one aftershock, ANSA reported, citing fire officials. No one was believed to be inside either building.

The ground shook in the nearly leveled town of Onna, about six miles away, but caused no panic. Onna residents walked around dazed, clutching whatever heirlooms they had managed to grab before their homes collapsed.

"We lost 15 members of our family. Babies and children died," 70-year-old retiree Virgilio Colajanni said as he choked back tears. Onna had about 300 residents and lost 40 to the quake.

Civil protection Maj. Cristina DiTommaso, who was helping coordinate the rescue in Onna, said search efforts were complicated by an unknown number of undocumented immigrants living there. Most of Italy's illegal immigrants are from Romania, the former Yugoslavia or northern Africa, and many work in the largely agricultural area as farm or manual laborers.

While the elderly, children and pregnant women were given priority at tent camps, others arranged to stay with relatives or in second homes out of the quake zone.

Ines D'Alessandro, 98, moved to her sister's home in nearby Sulmona after surviving her second devastating quake. Her first — a 1915 temblor that killed 30,000 people — occurred when she was just 4, ANSA reported.

"It is hard. I cry my heart out for all of these people struck by this tragedy, but one needs to have courage and I try to give it to others. I have fought all of my life," D'Alessandro told ANSA.

Six months pregnant, Sandra Padil spent the night in a tent without any covers as the temperatures dipped to 43 degrees.

"We are calmer out in the open," said Padil, a 32-year-old Peruvian who has been living in L'Aquila since 1996. "We didn't have blankets and it was cold, but at least this morning they gave us breakfast. Let's hope this ends quickly."

The main quake — which struck just after 3:30 a.m. Monday — registered magnitude 6.3, the U.S. Geological Survey said. Italy's National Institute of Geophysics, using the Richter scale, put it at 5.8.

It was Italy's deadliest quake since Nov. 23, 1980, when a 6.9-magnitude quake hit southern regions, leveling villages and killing about 3,000.


Associated Press writers William J. Kole in Onno and Frances D'Emilio, Alessandra Rizzo, Colleen Barry and Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this story.