KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
The death toll in the Italian earthquake climbed over 280 today, and rescuers say they don't have much hope of finding any more survivors. A powerful aftershock early this morning has done further damage to buildings and roads in the mountainous area and threatens to further isolate some hilltop villages. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley sends this report from the hard-hit town of Accumoli.
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Reaching some of the town's most devastated by Wednesday's earthquake became more difficult today as roads were declared unsafe and closed. I have to park my car about half a mile away and walk up to reach Accumoli.
There are - oh, my gosh - piles of rubble where entire flats have collapsed. And there's police tape cordoning off some of the little alleyways that are still too dangerous to walk in - seems to be really deserted. There's literally not even a cat in the street here.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: No.
BEARDSLEY: OK. Well as you heard, I've been told not to come up there. It's too dangerous.
This once-charming village is now in what's known as the red zone. In Accumoli's tiny public square, Italian military police have set up tents. Next to one, a large iron bust of a village elder has toppled from its pedestal. His face now stares up into the blazing sky. Luigi Torrone is a regional councilor in Accumoli.
LUIGI TORRONE: (Through interpreter) I feel such utter sadness. It's surreal to see my town in such desolation. But we're resolved more than ever to bring her back to life, out of respect to our parents and grandparents and especially the children who died beneath the rubble.
BEARDSLEY: The belfry of Accumoli's church has collapsed. And the front wall now lies in rubble, blocking the church's massive wooden doors. You can see right inside, where three chandeliers hang from the ceiling beams and paintings in gilded frames still decorate the walls. Medieval churches and works of art across this region have been severely damaged by the quake. A special Italian police artwork division is here today to begin assessing the damage. Team leader Brig. Fabio di Prospero says their work is the most important after saving lives.
FABIO DI PROSPERO: We have to save not only the objects but the history of this small town because this town are not to die. But we must save historical things and the people and their history.
BEARDSLEY: The village of Posta lies well outside the red zone. And it's where some reporters covering the quake go each night to recharge phones and computers and spirits.
PAOLO SANTINI: (Speaking Italian).
BEARDSLEY: Paolo Santini and his wife run a simple bed-and-breakfast in Posta. He's a bricklayer by profession but calls himself a poet in his soul. Early this morning, following a 4.8-magnitude aftershock, Santini composed a poem about how people not only survive but thrive amid the earthquake. The terremoto - what he calls the monster.
SANTINI: (Speaking Italian).
BEARDSLEY: "I, too, felt the tremor this morning and awoke in panic as my bed began to shake."
I ask Santini how people live alongside such a threat.
SANTINI: (Speaking Italian).
BEARDSLEY: "It used to be the Earth would shake, so you'd go and sleep in your car. And the next morning, you'd go back into your house and get on with your life."
But Santini believes the monster is getting stronger. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Posta, Italy.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.