Rescuers In Italy Scramble To Find Quake Survivors Searchers in Italy continue digging in hopes of finding more victims buried in the rubble from Monday's earthquake. More than 200 people are dead. It was Italy's worst quake in three decades.
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Rescuers In Italy Scramble To Find Quake Survivors

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Rescuers In Italy Scramble To Find Quake Survivors

Rescuers In Italy Scramble To Find Quake Survivors

Rescuers In Italy Scramble To Find Quake Survivors

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/102821458/102821423" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Searchers in Italy continue digging in hopes of finding more victims buried in the rubble from Monday's earthquake. More than 200 people are dead. It was Italy's worst quake in three decades.

ARI SHAPIRO, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Ari Shapiro.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

In the mountains of central Italy, rescue workers searched through the night hoping to find people still alive in the rubble from the country's worst earthquake in three decades. As hopes dimmed for finding more survivors, the death toll is now over 200 - with many hundreds more injured. At least 70,000 people have been left homeless. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli has more.

(Soundbite of sirens)

SYLVIA POGGIOLI: The mountain city of L'Aquila has become the focal point of the rescue effort. The town is filled with thousands of soldiers, civil protection workers and firemen from all over Italy. They have brought in heavy machinery to dig through the rubble. Twice during the night, strong aftershocks delayed the rescue effort. Most of the residents of the city have fled their damaged homes. Many slept in their cars parked along the shady street on the outskirts of town.

Unidentified Man (Italian Citizen): (Italian language spoken)

POGGIOLI: Middle-aged Antonio Conti(ph) is relieved to be outdoors. He says he was used to small tremors here but in all his life he had never felt anything like this quake. All I could think of was to put something on my feet he says, and I grabbed what I could. Look, he says, I'm wearing two different pairs of shoes. Nearby a group of men console each other and tell each other what they experienced.

Unidentified Woman (Italian Citizen): (Foreign language spoken)

POGGIOLI: Aggatavani(ph) says I woke up seen the lights come on. I don't know how that happened, and the walls looked like they were crashing down on me. The bed was lurching up and down. My husband, she says, grabbed my hand and said, it will pass quickly but it didn't. It went on and on, it was a disaster.

Unidentified Woman (Italian Citizen): (Foreign language spoken)

POGGIOLI: Next to her Erica Chubbi(ph) describes what she saw from her house up on the hill. I could see the city was trembling. I saw the San Bernardino bell tower crumble to the ground. The worst thing, she says, was the darkness, the silence and all the rubble and dust rising up like a huge cloud from the city. Many survivors are anguished because they don't know what happened to relatives and friends. A little bit further up the hill, a woman has salvaged some plates from her restaurant. It's now in ruins buried under four stories of rubble. She cries because one old woman, Senora Carle(ph), died in the building's collapse.

The old historic center of the city is deserted. All buildings are empty. The only sound is a persistent burglar alarm set off by the massive quake. The Corso Vittorio(ph) is ghostly.

The center of the city is lined with 18th, 19th century buildings. They've all been abandoned. There are cracks all over the place. There's lots of rubble off the ground. Officials have told us to be very careful. There're still a lot of tremors and the building could collapse completely.

POGGIOLI: The end of the street opens up into the main cathedral square. The piazza has become a military encampment, soldiers are setting up tents. Above them, the cupola of Santa Maria del Suffragio, baroque jewel of the city is a gaping hole. But at 5 p.m. the church comes to life in a gesture of defiance as if to rally the citizens of L'Aquila.

(Soundbite of church bells)

POGGIOLI: According to civil protection authorities two-thirds of buildings at L'Aquila have been damaged. Residents have been barred from returning to their homes until the building's stability has been determined and in the surrounding region many villages and hamlets have been devastated, some nearly leveled. Damage to roads has made rescue efforts difficult and it's still too early to assess the full extent of destruction. L'Aquila itself was built in 1240 by the Holy Roman emperor, Frederick II, and is still surrounded by medieval walls.

Italian Culture Ministry officials say the region's cultural heritage has suffered severely. The ministry issued a long list of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque landmarks that have been damaged or lost. A 16th century castle that houses the Abruzzi National Museum has been declared unstable and closed. It's guarded by police to prevent looting. And now many people are asking tough questions. Central Italy is well known as a highly seismic area and the Abruzzi region has a history of earthquakes. Why did so many modern buildings collapsed, people wonder?

Why were they not retrofitted for seismic safety? Not only a local seismologist Giampaolo Giuliani(ph) actually recently predicted a huge quake, we run into a friend of his Roberto Martzolo(ph).

Mr. ROBERTO MARTZOLO (Local Resident): (Through Translator) I believed him because I know him. He is a serious person and he was right, he just missed by one day. He said Sunday and it happened on Monday, but he was reported to police. We've had tremors since January and they told that this is normal, nothing to fear.

POGGIOLI: Giuliani was reported to police for spreading alarm and was forced to remove his findings from the Internet. At a press conference here yesterday, Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi appeared on the defensive when asked about the earthquake forecast.

Mr. SILVIO BERLUSCONI (Prime Minister, Italy): (Through translator) This is not the time to raise questions about the past. We must concentrate on relief efforts. We can discuss, afterwards, about the predictability of earthquakes.

POGGIOLI: Berlusconi, who declared a state of emergency and has earmarked $40 million for emergency assistance, has vowed to build a new town near L'Aquila in the next two years.

Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, L'Aquila.

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