Rescuers are continuing to search for signs of life, a day after a devastating Italian earthquake left at least 150 people dead.

With 1,500 injured and some 50,000 homeless after Monday’s pre-dawn quake struck L’Aquila and its region, many survivors spent the night in shelters.

Emergency crews have reportedly pulled 100 people alive from the rubble.

But as dawn broke with as many as 250 still thought to be missing, hopes were dimming of finding many more alive.

Survivors spent the night in hotels, cars or a tent city which has been erected in the medieval hill city.

A BBC correspondent in L’Aquila said there was a strong after-shock around 2200GMT, which lasted for around two seconds and made the ground feel like jelly.

It was the strongest of a number of tremors felt throughout Monday.

Rescuers were forced to briefly postpone their efforts as the after-shocks dislodged more rubble from buildings.

Crushed cars

As the pouring rain turned brick dust into a white sludge, exhausted emergency workers toiled through the night, pulling away bricks and broken pieces of wood with their bare hands.

Under the eerie glare of floodlights, they combed the rubble of a university dormitory where two students were reportedly found early on Tuesday and where several more were believed to be buried.

A scared-looking dog with a bleeding paw was also found.

Driving rain had hampered the night’s search in what correspondents are now referring to as a ghost city.

Several people were arrested for looting and police were patrolling the area monitoring buildings ripped open by the quake, Reuters reported.

Many houses in L’Aquila have been reduced to piles of rubble, dotted with crushed cars.

In one area of L’Aquila, rescuers tried to hush wails of grief as they pinpointed the screams of people trapped beneath debris, a Reuters correspondent reports.

In the village of Onna, with a population 350, the quake killed at least 24 people.

“There’s a lot of people dead, there’s a lot of people dead,” said villager Valentina Brunetto.

“They’re young people, young people dead under the house.”


The sensitive work lessened the risk of further casualties that the use of cranes and diggers might pose.

At least 5,000 rescue workers are in the region and hospitals have appealed for help from doctors and nurses throughout Italy.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has said the country has the resources to handle the disaster.

As dozens of after-shocks rattled the region, many survivors were being bussed to hotels on the Adriatic coast, where up to 10,000 places have been made available.

The state of emergency in place means that more resources can be brought in to give the region what it needs, the BBC’s Duncan Kennedy reports from L’Aquila.

Francesco Rocha, commissioner of the Italian Red Cross, put the number of homeless at about 50,000.

First priority for the agency, he told the BBC, was to save the lives of people still under the collapsed buildings.

“Second, is to organise the lives of the homeless. We are arranging field kitchens, beds and other items to organise their lives for the next days,” he said.

Shattered heritage

Between 3,000 and 10,000 buildings are thought to have been damaged in L’Aquila, making the 13th Century city of 70,000 uninhabitable for some time.

Parts of many of the ancient churches and castles in and around the city have collapsed.

L’Aquila is considered one of Italy’s architectural treasures.

“The damage is more serious than we can imagine,” Giuseppe Proietti, a culture ministry official in Rome, told the Associated Press.

“The historic centre of L’Aquila has been devastated.”

Correspondents note that the very age of many of the country’s buildings makes them particularly vulnerable to earthquake damage.

Italy lies on two fault lines and has been hit by powerful earthquakes in the past, mainly in the south of the country.

Much of the centre of L’Aquila had to be rebuilt after an earthquake in 1703.

Source: BBC