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Europe

Italian search effort enters second day

Earthquake victims in central Italy, many with only makeshift shelter, were forced to endure a wet night on Monday as the search for survivors continued.

Overhead view of destroyed Italian homes

Sunday night's earthquake made thousands homeless

Rescue workers combed through rubble in the central Italian city of L'Aquila on Monday night, as tens of thousands of homeless earthquake survivors spent the night in crude accommodation.

Hospital sources told ANSA news agency that more than 150 people had died, and authorities fear that as many as 50,000 people have been rendered homeless.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who cancelled a planned trip to Russia to visit the site of the disaster, told a press conference that 1,500 people were injured, and pledged swift emergency assistance.

"No one will be abandoned to his fate," he said, adding that a tent village would be set up that could accommodate between 16,000 and 20,000 people.

Driving rain and the onset of darkness forced many survivors to seek shelter in cars and makeshift tents.

Some preferred the prospect of spending the night outside in the wet to the risk of being caught indoors amid an aftershock.

Map showing L'Aquila, which lies about 100 km NE of Rome

The Abruzzo region is under a state of emergency

Weather hampers rescue efforts

Rescue workers continued to pull survivors from the ruins of L'Aquila, the regional capital of Abruzzo, overnight. However, wet conditions slowed the search for survivors.

Near midnight, firefighters reported pulling a 21-year-old woman and a 22-year-man from the remnants of an apartment building where many students had rented flats.

Around 60 people were pulled alive from the rubble on Monday, firefighters said.

EU offers aid

As emergency services scrambled to find trapped victims, the European Union and several countries quickly offered aid to Italy, officials told ANSA news agency.

The EU, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Russia immediately extended assistance, said Agostino Miozzo, a public safety chief quoted by the national agency. But he added that it was not immediately needed.

"Some towns in the area have been virtually destroyed in their entirety," a somber Gianfranco Fini, speaker of the lower house of parliament, said.

Scale of quake shocks locals

Residents of L'Aquila were left with just seconds to react when the quake, which the US Geological Survey measured at 6.3 on the Richter scale, struck shortly after 3:30 am local time.

The tremor lasted about 30 seconds, bringing down roofs on sleeping inhabitants and also damaging many of the city's Renaissance era and Baroque buildings.

At least five children were among the dead, according to police quoted by ANSA news agency.

A magnitude-4.7 aftershock was reported shortly after the quake, and at least two smaller tremors were recorded immediately beforehand, Italian authorities said.

The epicenter of the quake, which was also felt in Rome, was five kilometers outside L'Aquila, a town of 60,000 residents in the Apennine Mountains, Italian public safety officials said.

Main quake follows Sunday evening tremor

The quake came just hours after a 4.6-magnitude tremor shook Italy's north-central region with no reports of damage.

Two men hug each other as people and volunteers stand amidst debris in the city of L'Aquila

The city of L'Aquila has been devastated by the quake

That quake occurred at 10:20 pm on Sunday near Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region and was exceptionally deep at some 28 kilometers, public safety officials told ANSA.

Because of its depth, the tremor was felt over a wide area, notably in the Marche region on the Adriatic coast.

A powerful earthquake in the region claimed 13 lives in 1997 and damaged or destroyed priceless cultural heritage.

Italy is dissected by two fault lines, with around 20 million people at risk from earthquakes.

Past deadly earthquakes in Italy include an October 2002 quake that killed 30 people including 27 pupils and their teacher who were crushed under their schoolhouse in the tiny medieval village of San Giuliano di Puglia.

Twenty-two years earlier, on November 23, 1980, a violent quake struck the southern region of Irpiona near Naples, killing 2,570, injuring 8,850 and displacing 30,000.

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