Aftershocks hit quake survivor camps

AFTERSHOCKS from the earthquake that has killed at least 260 people in central Italy sent new fears through the tent camps that shelter thousands of survivors, and Pope Benedict XVI said yesterday that he would visit the shocked and injured people of the area as soon as possible.

As rescue teams pressed ahead with their searches in the crumbled buildings, some of the almost 28,000 left homeless emerged from tents after spending a second night in chilly mountain temperatures.

“I slept so badly because I kept feeling the aftershocks,” said Daniela Nunut at one of the tent camps set up across the city of L’Aquila. The 46-year-old Romanian-born woman said she and her companion plan to stay in the tent for now. “What can you do? You can’t go into the building.”

The magnitude-6.3 quake hit L’Aquila and several towns in central Italy early Monday, levelling buildings and reducing entire blocks to piles of rubble and dust.

The Pope praised the relief operations as an example of how solidarity can help overcome “even the most painful trials”.

“As soon as possible, I hope to visit you,” Benedict said yesterday at the Vatican.

The Vatican said he would make the trip after Easter Sunday and that he does not want to interfere with relief operations.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi said 260 people have died, including 16 children.

The premier, speaking in L’Aquila after a third day in the quake area, said nine bodies remained to be identified. He said about 100 injured were in serious condition.

Berlusconi said looting in the quake zone was on the rise and that the government was looking to increase penalties for the crime.

He said that details were still being worked out, adding the new penalties would be “very severe”.

A funeral for the victims is scheduled for Friday morning, and is to be conducted by L’Aquila bishop Giuseppe Molinari, the premier said. At least one victim’s funeral was to be held yesterday in one of the small villages in the area.

Berlusconi said about 17,700 people left homeless by the quake had found shelter in tent camps set up by authorities. An additional 10,000 people were housed in hotels along the coast, bringing the overall number of homeless to almost 28,000.

Fifteen people remain missing, officials said.

The ANSA news agency reported that four students trapped in the rubble of a dormitory of the University of L’Aquila had died.

Officials said some 10,000 to 15,000 buildings were either damaged or destroyed in the 26 cities, towns and villages around L’Aquila, a city of 70,000 that is the regional capital of Abruzzo.


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