August 26, 2016 10:28:35 pm
Italy declared a day of mourning for victims of a devastating earthquake as hopes of finding any more survivors dwindled and the confirmed death toll rose to 267. Flags will fly at half-mast across the country tomorrow to coincide with funerals for some of the victims.
Immacolata Postiglione, head of the Civil Protection agency’s emergency unit, said no new survivors had been found overnight in the remote mountain villages blitzed by Wednesday’s powerful pre-dawn quake. At least 387 people have been hospitalised with injuries but no one has been pulled alive from the piles of collapsed masonry since Wednesday evening.
“We will go on searching and digging until we are certain there is noone left,” said Luigi D’Angelo, a local Civil Protection official. Valerio Checchi, an officer with a forestry police unit, said he expected rescuers to shortly start using bulldozers to clear the debris in a sign virtually all hope of survivors has gone.
“We will still use thermal devices that can detect the presence of human bodies.” The mayor of Amatrice said his best guess was that there could be around 15 more people still buried under the ruins of his devastated little town.
As powerful aftershocks closed winding mountain roads and made life dangerous for more than 4,000 professionals and volunteers engaged in the rescue effort, survivors voiced dazed bewilderment over the scale of the disaster that has struck their sleepy communities.
“I have been through earthquakes before, but this was not a quake, it was an apocalypse,” said Anacleto Perotti, 66. The resident of the tiny hamlet of St Lorenzo Flaviano has gone back to his house, which survived the quake. But he is sleeping in an armchair. “It is too scary in bed. After a quake comes fear, depression takes you over from the inside.”
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has declared a state of emergency for the regions affected by Wednesday’s quake, which occurred in an area that straddles Umbria, Lazio and Marche. Renzi also released an initial tranche of 50 million euros (USD 56 million) in emergency aid.
The first funerals will be held in the city of Ascoli-Piceno for some of the victims who died in the villages of Arquata del Tronto and Pescara del Tronto in the mountains of the Marche region. President Sergio Mattarella will attend. A total of 46 people died in the two villages. The youngest was between three and four, the oldest in her nineties.
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