Italy quake death toll rises to 228

April 8th, 2009 - 2:54 am ICT by IANS  

L’Aquila (Italy), April 8 (DPA) The death toll of the powerful earthquake that struck central Italy early Monday had climbed to 228 by Tuesday evening, while at least one person was killed when a strong aftershock hit the area, reports said.
Italian state television said one woman died in Santa Rufina di Roio, a suburb of the Abruzzo regional capital, L’Aquila. Additional details were not immediately available.

Fear gripped rescuers as well as people staying at makeshift shelters in and around the city shortly before 7 p.m. (6 p.m. GMT) as the ground shook and masonry came crashing down.

Registered at between 5.5 and 5.7 on the Richter scale, the tremor was the most powerful of the over 200 that have struck since the main earthquake, which registered between 5.8 and 6.2.

As in the case of the main earthquake, the tremor was felt as far away as Rome which lies some 100 km from L’Aquila.

Meanwhile Italian government officials met in Rome in the latest of a series of meetings to review the situation.

“We have 25,000 people who will not be able to return to their homes,” Abruzzo regional president Gianni Chiodi said following the meeting.

Thousands of survivors were preparing to spend the night in several tent shelters set up near and around L’Aquila.

Earlier rescuers located the bodies of four dead students after more than 30 hours of work trying to shift debris at a damaged five-storey building which served as a university dormitory in the city.

L’Aquila has been badly damaged together with other towns located not far from the earthquake’s epicentre.

In a visit Tuesday to the city, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said rescue work would continue for another 48 hours in the hope that some of the missing would be found alive.

He also said Italy intended to turn down offers of help from abroad, but later said the government would consider sponsorship from the US and other to restore churches and other historical buildings.

Rescue efforts have been hampered by the region’s hilly landscape which has made it difficult for firefighters and soldiers, backed by more than 2,000 volunteers, to position cranes and other tools and equipment needed to clear debris.

Berlusconi said that of the around 1,000 people injured in connection with the earthquake, 500 were have been hospitalised in facilities located in the Abruzzo region.

“Unfortunately the condition of 100 of these people is serious,” he said.

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