Sky News (Link) (April 6, 2009)
Rescuers have pulled 60 survivors from the rubble after a massive earthquake in central Italy, which killed more than 150 people. Around 1,500 people have been made homeless by the quake, hospital sources said.
Rescuers have been searching for survivors as dozens of aftershocks continued to plague the area hampering their efforts. TV footage showed rescuers racing away from the rubble of a ruined house as a tremor hit, sending masonry flying.
Gianfranco Fini, speaker of Italy's lower house of parliament, said entire towns had been "virtually destroyed" with 15,000 buildings off limits.
The epicentre was close to the city of L'Aquila in the centre of Italy, about 100 miles northeast of Rome.
The village of Onna, close to L'Aquila, was "wiped off the map" with no houses left standing, according to one emergency official. In the fields outside, row after row of coffins were lined up and officials said at least 50 of the 400 inhabitants are dead.
The tremor struck at just after 3.30am local time and measured 6.3 on the Richter scale.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi cancelled a visit to Moscow and immediately flew to the scene, calling the area a "disaster zone". He has declared a state of emergency for the central Abruzzo region where the quake struck.
After flying over the scene in a helicopter he said: "At the moment 4,000 rescuers are at work and concentrating on extracting people from the rubble." He added that a camp with 2,000 tents, each capable of housing eight to 10 people, was currently being set up in L'Aquila for those who had lost their homes in the disaster.
Around 4,000 beds in hotels in the area have also been reserved for survivors. "The camp should be ready be tonight," he said. "The fundamental thing I want to say is that nobody will be left alone."
Guido Bertolaso, head of the Italian Civil Defence, said: "Many, many buildings have collapsed and there are people trapped inside. "Emergency services are travelling to the scene and we are working on rescuing people who are trapped.
"Thousands of people have been left homeless and we are providing emergency shelters such as tents for them." He added: "This is the worst disaster to have hit Italy since the start of the millennium and I would appeal to people not to go to the area."
Emergency services were also focusing their attention on a university hall of residence in L'Aquila which had partially collapsed with students inside. The area around L'Aquila has been the scene of intense earthquake activity since October.
There was another smaller tremor around midnight which measured 4.6 on the Richter scale. L'Aquila is a picturesque medieval town and has been hit by severe tremors twice before, in 1461 and 1703. Both times the city was virtually destroyed.
An Italian scientist claims he predicted a major quake near the town weeks ago but was reported to authorities for spreading panic.
As rescue efforts continued tragic stories emerged, including one involving a two-year-old girl who was dug out of the ruins of her home at San Gregorio. Her mother's dead body was wrapped around her as a shield. One firefighter said: "It was tragic to see. The girl has been injured and has been taken to hospital by helicopter but her mother sadly died - she shielded her from the debris."
In another case, a 20-year-old student was dug from the collapsed ruins of the university hall of residence after calling his sister who directed emergency services to where he was.
Officials said that, in total, 26 council districts had been hit by the earthquake in a radius of around 35 miles from L'Aquila.
There was also minor damage reported as far afield as Rome and Naples. Pope Benedict XVI said he was praying for the victims and officials launched urgent appeals for blood supplies.
Civil protection officials said at least 50,000 people had been left homeless as a result of the quake. They stressed many would be temporarily homeless while engineers carry out structural checks on damaged buildings.