Italy's reconstruction commissioner said all of the buildings destroyed in this week's earthquakes will be rebuilt. The government has extended a state of emergency after the latest strong jolts.
"We will rebuild everything, 100 percent, that is the government's commitment," Vasco Errani, Italy's reconstruction supremo said on Thursday, after 5.5 and 6.1 magnitude earthquakes hit central Italy.
No one was killed or seriously injured in the sudden jolts on Wednesday evening, which struck the edge of the Marche region, close to the border with Umbria.
Errani, who was appointed to manage a huge rebuilding effort after an earlier earthquake struck in August, tried to reassure residents of the mountainous, sparsely populated region that "they are not on their own."
Residents flee moving buildings
Marco Rinaldi, mayor of the village of Ussita, described "apocalyptic" scenes. "People were in the streets screaming. Many houses have collapsed. Our town is finished," he told the AFP news agency.
Between 65 percent and 80 percent of houses in the two villages were rendered unsafe, leaving local residents with no choice but to sleep in their cars as more than 200 aftershocks were felt through the night.
Wednesday's quakes were felt as far away as the Italian capital, Rome, where some residents took to the streets as a precaution.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi visited Camerino on Thursday, and pledged 40 million euros ($43.6 million) for immediate assistance following the quakes.
"The whole of the population is by your side," he told local officials, adding that it was vital to make further investments to retrofit buildings to make them earthquake proof.
Ancient structures ruined
Gianluca Pasqui, mayor of Camerino, a town of 17,500 residents and students, said the historic bell tower of the Santa Maria in Via church, dating from the Crusades, had collapsed.
Local officials said with the cold weather approaching, they were concerned about providing enough temporary housing, particularly for the elderly.
Many senior citizens were even worried about staying in buildings deemed safe, saying they'd rather sleep in campervans.
Pensioner Massimo Testa said he and his wife had just escaped from their house before it collapsed following the second jolt.
"My wife was petrified; she could see masonry falling around her," he told AFP. "Thank God we are still alive, that is the most important thing."
mm/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)