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Italian earthquake: more than 150 dead, Silvio Berlusconi confirms

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on April 7, 2009

Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, has confirmed that more than 150 people were killed and 1,500 injured in the earthquake which hit central Italy in the early hours of Monday morning.

 

By Richard Holt and Gordon Rayner

More than 5,000 rescue workers continued the search for survivors into a second night after the 6.3 magnitude quake hit the Abruzzo region at 3.32am on Monday.

After working in heavy rain during the day, the rescuers scoured collapsed buildings in the medieval town of L’Aquila, the regional capital at the epicentre of the earthquake. Emergency services said 60 people had been pulled alive from the rubble.

Up to 50,000 people have been left homeless in the town, around 60 miles north-east of Rome, and in the surrounding villages, with up to 15,000 buildings destroyed or damaged beyond repair.

Mr Berlusconi declared a state of emergency in the region and cancelled a trip to Russia in order to visit L’Aquila.

He said 30 million euros (£27m) had been earmarked to help the region.

World leaders from Barack Obama, the US president and Dmitry Medvedev, his Russian counterpart, expressed their sympathy to the victims and their families.

The earthquake took a severe toll on the region’s architectural heritage. L’Aquila was built as a mountain stronghold during the Middle Ages and has many Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance buildings.

Italy’s national police chief Antonio Manganelli said several people had been arrested for looting.

Thousands of hotel rooms in the area were requisitioned to provide shelter for those who have been displaced.

Mr Berlusconi also called together the country’s leading seismologists to advise on whether more major shocks could follow.

John McCloskey, a professor of geophysics at the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, said: “Earthquakes like this frequently trigger other earthquakes in the region. After the Umbria and Marche earthquakes in Italy in 1997 there was a sequence of eight events higher than magnitude five in the following two months.”

Roger Musson of the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh said the Apennine mountains were a hotspot for large earthquakes, and an event of this magnitude “is not really a surprise”.

In the last century, five big earthquakes on or around the spine of Italy have claimed around 34,000 lives. Monday’s event was the third major ‘quake in less than 12 years in a radius of just 90 miles.

Gianfranco Fini, speaker of Italy’s lower house of parliament, said: “Some towns in the area have been virtually destroyed in their entirety.”

Civil protection department officials said the damage extended to 26 cities and towns.

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