The Italian earthquake death toll rises to over 260 as the search for victims enters its final stage. However, efforts to comb through the rubble are being hampered by aftershocks.
The village of Onna has been transformed into a ghost town
Rescuers in central Italy are continuing to search through the rubble for survivors of Monday's earthquake.
Aftershocks continued to haunt thousands of people in L'Aquila, as many spent Tuesday night in tent villages or cars amid temperatures only a little above freezing.
The earthquake caused widespread destruction in L'Aquila
The strongest aftershock registered at 5.6 magnitude and toppled buildings, including parts of the basilica and the station. L'Aquila's mayor said it also shook buildings in Rome some 100 kilometers to the west and caused a 76-year-old man there to have a fatal heart attack.
Speaking in L'Aquila on Wednesday, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said the death toll had risen to 267, including 16 children. Of some 1,500 people injured, about 100 were in serious condition. Berlusconi also confirmed that astate funeral would be held on Friday.
"Certainty on survivors within 48 hours"
Berlusconi, who has declared a state of emergency in the central Abruzzi region, said the search would go on for another 48 hours, after which, authorities would have certainty as to whether people buried under the rubble were still alive. He added that 150 people had so far been pulled alive from collapsed structures.
Tent camps have been set up for those who have lost their homes
Officials revised the estimated number of homeless to 17,000 from the previous 50,000. Many of these were forced to overnight in makeshift tents or in their cars. Berlusconi said 20 tent camps with 16 field kitchens would be completed on Tuesday to accommodate 14,500 people. Hotels in the area have also made more than 13,000 beds available to quake victims.
Authorities have appealed to people not to attempt to return to their houses due to the danger posed by ongoing aftershocks. Monday's earthquake, which registered at 6.3 on the Richter scale, has been followed by more than 280 aftershocks.
Apart from the aftershocks, rescue efforts have also been hampered by the region's hilly landscape, which has exacerbated the positioning of cranes and other tools and equipment needed to clear the debris.
Pope to visit quake zone
The epicenter of Monday's deadly quake was at the central Italian town of L'Aquila
In his weekly address Pope Benedict XVI, said he was praying for the victims and their families and that he hoped to visit the disaster zone as "soon as possible." However a Vatican spokesman said a visit was unlikely to happen within the next fortnight.