Italy toll rises to 247 as anguish mounts over quake past - AP
Dawn broke over the rolling hills of central Lazio and Le Marche regions after a night of uninterrupted search efforts. Aided by sniffer dogs, firefighters and rescue crews using their bare hands pulled chunks of cement, rock and metal apart from mounds of rubble where homes once stood searching for signs of life.
One area of focus was the Hotel Roma in Amatrice, famous for the Amatriciana bacon and tomato pasta sauce that brings food lovers to this medieval hilltop town each August for its food festival.
Amatrice’s mayor had initially said 70 guests were in the crumbled hotel ahead of this weekend’s festival, but rescue workers later halved that estimate after the owner said most guests managed to escape.
Firefighters’ spokesman Luca Cari said that one body had been pulled out of the hotel rubble just before dawn but that the search continued there and elsewhere, even as aftershocks rattled the area a day after the magnitude 6 temblor struck at 3:36 a.m. on Wednesday.
"We’re still in a phase that allows us to hope we’ll find people alive," Cari said, noting that in the 2009 earthquake in nearby L’Aquila a survivor was pulled out after 72 hours.
Worst affected by the quake were the tiny towns of Amatrice and Accumoli near Rieti, 100 kilometers (60 miles) northeast of Rome, and Pescara del Tronto, 25 kilometers (15 miles) further east.
Italy’s civil protection agency reported the death toll had risen to 247 early Thursday with at least 368 others injured. Most of the dead - 190 - were in Amatrice and Accumuli and their nearby hamlets.
The civil protection agency set up tent cities around the affected towns to accommodate the homeless. In Amatrice, many elderly and children spent the night inside a local sports facility.
As the search effort continued, the soul-searching began once again as Italy confronted the effects of having the highest seismic hazard in Western Europe, some of it in its most picturesque medieval villages, and anti-seismic building codes that aren’t applied to old buildings and often aren’t respected when new ones are built.
"Unfortunately, 90 percent we pull out are dead, but some make it, that’s why we are here," said Christian Bianchetti, a volunteer from Rieti who was working in devastated Amatrice.