Strong aftershocks have damaged two key access roads into quake-struck Amatrice, threatening to isolate the tiny Italian hilltop town as hopes fade that firefighters will find any more survivors from the earthquake that killed at least 278 people.

Some crumbled buildings in Amatrice cracked even further after the biggest aftershock struck yesterday at 6.28am local time. The US Geological Service said it had a magnitude of 4.7, while the Italian geophysics institute measured it at 4.8.

The shaking ground also damaged one key access bridge to Amatrice, forcing emergency crews to close it.

Mayor Sergio Pirozzi said he is working with authorities to find an alternative bypass to another damaged bridge.

“We hope to God it works because otherwise, with the damaged stretch of road, we are without any connection” to the main roads, he said.

Even before the roads were shut down, traffic into and out of Amatrice was horribly congested with emergency vehicles bringing hundreds of rescue crews up to Amatrice and dump trucks carrying tons of concrete, rocks, and metal down the single-lane roads.

The aftershock was preceded by more than 50 overnight and was followed by another nine in the next hour — part of the nearly 1,000 aftershocks that have rocked Italy’s central Apennine Mountains since the original 6.2 magnitude quake early on Wednesday.

Premier Matteo Renzi has declared a state of emergency and authorised €50m for immediate quake relief.

The Italian government also declared today a day of national mourning and scheduled a state funeral to be attended by president Sergio Mattarella.

Waiter Andrea Orsini serves pasta all’amatriciana. Restaurants are being urged to put the dish on their menus with a €2 donation going to the Italian Red Cross for each dish sold. Picture: Gregorio Borgia/AP
Waiter Andrea Orsini serves pasta all’amatriciana. Restaurants are being urged to put the dish on their menus with a €2 donation going to the Italian Red Cross for each dish sold. Picture: Gregorio Borgia/AP

Rescue efforts continued through Thursday night and into yesterday, but more than a day and a half had passed since the last person was extracted alive from the rubble.

While Mr Renzi hailed the fact that 215 people had been rescued after the quake, authorities reported a steadily rising death toll that had hit 267 by yesterday morning.

Civil protection operations chief Immacolata Postiglione still insisted yesterday that the rescue effort had not yet switched to a recovery mission.

Rescue workers noted that a person was pulled out alive 72 hours after the 2009 earthquake in the Italian town of L’Aquila.

“I confirm, once again as we have from the start, that the units that are doing the searches and rescues, including with dogs looking for other people trapped in the rubble, are absolutely fully active,” said Ms Postiglione.

On the ground, authorities were still struggling to account for all the missing, since that number is uncertain given the large number of visitors for summer holidays and an annual food festival.

“There is still hope to find survivors under the rubble, even in these hours,” said Walter Milan, a mountain rescue worker. However, he conceded: “Certainly, it will be very unlikely.”

A woman sits in the courtyard of the Don Minozzi convent in Amatrice, central Italy. Picture: Roberto Salomone/ANSA via AP
A woman sits in the courtyard of the Don Minozzi convent in Amatrice, central Italy. Picture: Roberto Salomone/ANSA via AP

The vast majority of the dead were found in levelled Amatrice, the medieval hilltop town famous for its bacon and tomato pasta sauce.

The other dead hailed from nearby Accumoli and Arquata del Tronto.

Flags will fly at half-mast today on all public offices and a state funeral will be celebrated by a bishop in a gym in Ascoli Piceno for the victims of nearby Arquata del Tronto — to date, 49 of the dead have come from the tiny town and its hamlet Pescara del Tronto.

The first private funerals were scheduled for yesterday, including one in Pomezia, south of Rome, celebrated by one of Pope Francis’ closest collaborators, Bishop Marcello Semeraro.

Across the area, thousands have been forced to abandon their homes, either because they were destroyed or they were deemed to be too unsafe.

Overnight, some 2,100 people slept in tent camps, nearly 1,000 more than the first night after Wednesday’s quake, in a sign that a significant number had found nowhere else to go.

“I have no idea what I’m going to do now, because I had renovated the house two years ago,” survivor Umberto Palaferri said, showing a photo of his collapsed home on his phone. “It was all new and now I don’t know what to do. I’m 76 and don’t know if I can rebuild it.”

Aftershocks quash hopes of finding more quake survivors

Meanwhile, food lovers and chefs in Italy and beyond are urging restaurants to serve up more pasta all’amatriciana in a move to support the quake-hit home town of the hearty dish.

The rustic food, made of tomato sauce with pork jowl and topped with pecorino cheese, comes from Amatrice. The idea is for some of the proceeds to go to help the devastated areas rebuild.

Italian food blogger and graphic designer Paolo Campana launched an appeal on Wednesday, saying on Facebook: “We have to move fast.”

“Pasta all’amatriciana is a symbol,” he said. “So I decided to use this symbol to help.”

He has asked restaurants to put the dish on their menus and donate €2 per meal sold directly to the Italian Red Cross, which is participating in relief efforts in the affected areas in the region.

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4.7-magnitude earthquake rattles central Italy4.7-magnitude earthquake rattles central Italy

Quake-devastated Amatrice hit by new aftershockQuake-devastated Amatrice hit by new aftershock

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Italy quake damage 'like Dante's inferno' as death toll climbs to 159Italy quake damage 'like Dante's inferno' as death toll climbs to 159


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