Rome, Aug 25 (IANS) The death toll in the devastating 6.2 magnitude earthquake that struck central Italy’s mountainous region has risen to at least 247 even as thousands of rescuers continued efforts to find survivors.
Dozens were believed trapped beneath debris in the ruined towns of Amatrice, Accumoli and Pescara del Tronto which were levelled to the during the catastrophe on August 24.
Search parties scavenged through rubble and building debri through the night, even as a strong aftershock rocked already damaged buildings, BBC reported.
Many of the victims were children, Italy’s Health Minister said, and there were warnings the toll could rise further.
Late on Wednesday, there were cheers in the village of Pescara del Tronto when a 4-year-old girl Giorgia Rinaldo was pulled alive from the rubble after being trapped for 17 hours.
The little girl’s sister was found moments later, but she was dead.
Nearby, two girls and their grandmother were pulled from the rubble, but they had also tragically died, the Mirror reported.
At least 4,300 rescuers were roped in by the Italian authorities to continue efforts to find the missing. The rescuers used heavy lifting equipment and their bare hands to exhume bodies and rescue victims.
Rescuers said they pulled five bodies from the ruins of the Hotel Roma in the historic town of Amatrice. At least 70 tourists were staying at the hotel when the quake struck. Many were feared to be in the rubble, though several were pulled out and offered medical attention.
The quake struck small towns and villages in the mountainous area where the regions of Umbria, Lazio and Le Marche meet.
People spent the night outside or in tents provided by the emergency services.
Popular British singer Lily Allen who was on holiday in Umbria, where the earthquake hit near the town of Norcia — a favoured tourist destination — confirmed that she was safe, after leaving a family holiday in Italy early, the Independent reported.
Among the victims was an 18-month-old toddler, Marisol Piermarini, whose mother Martina Turco survived the deadly April 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila and had moved away from there after the experience, Ansa reported.
Turco was being treated in hospital after being pulled from the rubble in the village of Arquata del Tronto.
Despite a massive rescue and relief effort — with army, Alpine crews, carabineri, firefighters, Red Cross crews and volunteers, it wasn’t enough: A few miles north of Amatrice, in Illica, residents complained that rescue workers were slow to arrive and that loved ones were trapped beneath ruins, the Independent reported.
“We are waiting for the military,” said a victim Alessandra Cappellanti, adding, “there is a base in Ascoli, one in Rieti, and in L’Aquila. And we have not seen a single soldier. We pay! It’s disgusting!”
Secretary General of the Italian Red Cross Flavio Ronzi said there was still hope to find people alive.
“We are still finding some survivors because there is still some time, we can still find someone alive but of course hour by hour it’s going to be more difficult and with less possibilities,” the BBC quoted Ronzi as saying.
The Italian branch of the Red Cross sent at least 20 ambulances and sniffer dogs to affected areas alongside the Italian Defence Ministry on Wednesday.