At least eight foreigners were among the 250 people killed when a powerful earthquake struck central Italy this week, officials said, as rescuers continued the grim search for corpses on Friday.
The bulk of the confirmed deaths – 193 at the latest count – were in the small mountain town of Amatrice, which normally has a population of around 2,500 but was packed with visitors when the earthquake struck as people slept in the early hours of Wednesday.
Three British citizens were killed in the 6.2 magnitude earthquake, an official from Amatrice told the BBC.
The British Foreign Office did not immediately confirm the report, but Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, has said a number of British nationals were affected.
“My deepest sympathies are with the Italian people and everyone affected by the terrible earthquake,” said Johnson, who sent condolences to his Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni.
SkyNews reported that two British nationals killed in the earthquake were owners of a house in the village of Sommati, about 2km (1.3 miles) from Amatrice.
It appears that the owners’ two children survived the earthquake, however their condition is currently unknown.
The other Briton was the teenage son of a family who were staying with the owners, the broadcaster reported.
The Daily Mirror reported that the boy, 14, was visiting with his family from London.
The boy’s parents were injured, and are currently been treated in Rieti Hospital, while his sister survived and did not need hospital treatment, the newspaper said.
According to a doctor from Rieti hospital, the 14-year-old’s sister did not need hospital treatment while his mother was suffering from facial fractures and his father had a broken leg.
“The British woman was brought here by rescue workers on Wednesday while her husband was taken to L’Aquila,” Rieti Hospital director Pasquale Carducci, told the Mirror.
“When we discovered he was there we decided they would be happier together, so we decided to reunite them.
“Since the man was less badly hurt it was easier to bring him to her. We hope that they can be a support to each other.”
The newspaper also reported that the parents had been informed of the boy’s death after they were reunited.
The couple’s daughter was being looked after by other relatives while her parents were in hospital, the Mirror said, adding that the family were visited in hospital by British Embassy officials.
Two Romanians were among the dead, the country’s foreign ministry said on Thursday, while four nationals were injured and eight more were still missing.
Spain’s foreign minister said one Spanish national had been killed, with Spanish and Italian media saying it was young woman who had lived in the village of Illica with her Italian husband, who survived.
Canada and El Salvador both said that one of their citizens had been killed in the earthquake.
“We share in the grief of the lives cut short by this terrible event,” said Canadian foreign minister Stephane Dion in a statement.
El Salvador said the victim, Rosaura Valiente Oviedo, had been living in Italy since 2009. Her son, Roberto Valiente, survived with minor injuries.
The disaster comes seven years after an earthquake in the nearby city of L’Aquila left 309 people dead, raising questions about Italy’s ability to prepare for seismic events.
Another strong aftershock has greeted many people this morning in central Italy, reportedly causing some more damage to crumbled buildings in hard-hit Amatrice.
Italy’s national geological institute put the magnitude at 4.8. It said the 6:28 a.m. temblor was preceded by more than a dozen weaker aftershocks overnight and followed by another nine in the subsequent hour.
The quake zone has experienced more than 500 aftershocks, some measuring 5.1, in the two days since the original pre-dawn quake Wednesday.
Two of the three Britons believed to have been killed in Wednesday’s earthquake were owners of a house in the village of Sommati, about 2km (1.3 miles) from Amatrice, SkyNews reports.
The other was the 14-year-old son of another family who were staying with the owners, the broadcaster said.
It would appear that the owners’ two children and the teenage boy’s parents and sister all survived the quake.
The condition of the apartment owners’s children is unknown.
According to a doctor from Rieti hospital the teenager’s sister did not need hospital treatment while his mother was suffering from facial fractures and his father had a broken leg.
New York City’s World Trade Centre is honouring the victims of the earthquake in Italy.
Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday directed the building’s 408ft (124m) spire be lit in the colours of the country’s flag – green, white and red.
Wednesday’s earthquake killed at least 250 people in Amatrice and other towns in central Italy.
In a statement, Mr Cuomo extended his condolences to the victims and said New York stands ready to lend support.
On Thursday the Canadian city of Toronto also lit up in the tricolor.
Emergency services have rescued 215 people from the rubble so far, said Bruno Frattasi of the national fire service. Meanwhile one more body has been pulled out from what used to be the Hotel Roma in Amatrice.
Lucs Cari, the fire service spokesman, said that documents would suggest that they may find three more victims at the site.
Three Brits, including a 14-year-old schoolboy, were reportedly among those killed in the Italy earthquake.
The teen, believed to be from London, was staying in an apartment in Amatrice with his parents and sister when the disaster struck.
His mother and father are said to be seriously injured after Wednesday morning’s quake which killed at least 250 people.
They are believed to have been taken to different hospitals by rescue teams, but have now been reunited.
Relatives of the British family, who have not been identified, have now flown to Italy to comfort them, reports the Mirror.
It has emerged that rescue workers took the mother, who was suffering from fractured facial bones, to Rieti Hospital while her husband, who had a broken leg, was taken to a hospital in the city of L’Aquila 40 miles away.
Their daughter survived and did not need hospital treatment.
Italy’s interior ministry has published a list naming 46 victims of the earthquake from the Ascoli Piceno area.
The youngest person listed is 18-month-old Marisol Piermarini, one of seven minors listed.
A police official in the Amatrice area told the Press Association that “a number of Britons” had been killed in the earthquake.
Premier Matteo Renzi has authorised a preliminary 50 million euros (£43 million) in emergency funding and ordered the cancellation of taxes for residents of quake-hit central Italy.
Thursday night’s announcement represented the Italian government’s first relief measures following the Wednesday disaster.
Mr Renzi also unveiled an initiative called “Italian Homes” to address chronic criticism of shoddy construction standards nationwide. But he called suggestions that Italy could construct earthquake-proof buildings “absurd.”
He said it was difficult to imagine that this week’s death and destruction “could have been avoided simply using different building technology. We’re talking about medieval-era towns.”
Italian authorities have arrested a man caught trying to loot homes in Amatrice, an Italian hilltop town devastated in this week’s earthquake in Italy, the interior minister Angelino Alfano said.
The news agency Ansa reported that police arrested a 45-year-old man from Naples who tried to break into an abandoned home. When he saw police he tried to flee but was caught and, after a scuffle that caused minor injuries to the officers, he was arrested.
Ansa reported that the man has convictions for drugs and other crimes.
The Foreign Office put out a statement earlier this evening saying that a number of Britons had been affected by the earthquake in Italy.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said extra staff had been sent to the region to help provide support.
He said: “My deepest sympathies are with the Italian people and everyone affected by the terrible earthquake that struck central Italy.
“The British Government has offered any assistance that we can to help with the recovery effort and I have spoken with Italian foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni to express my condolences personally.
“As the scale of the disaster has become clearer we now know that a number of British nationals have been affected.
“British Embassy staff are in the region providing consular support, and we have deployed additional staff to support this effort.”
The Foreign Office has not confirmed the deaths of the British nationals.
At least three British citizens were among those killed in the earthquake in Amatrice, an official from the town has told the BBC.
Italian authorities launched an investigation on Thursday into the collapse of buildings in the country’s earthquake-devastated region, as questions were asked about why more lessons had not been learned from the last deadly tremor seven years ago.
The death toll from the magnitude 6.2 quake, which struck a mountainous area of central Italy early on Wednesday, reached 250 and was expected to rise further as firemen, soldiers and alpine rescue experts dug through the rubble of devastated towns and villages.
More than 260 were injured, some of them critically.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said a number of Britons had been affected by the earthquake.
“British Embassy staff are in the region providing consular support, and we have deployed additional staff to support this effort,” he said.
The inquiry will focus on the modern buildings that collapsed, rather than the hundreds of medieval stone structures that crumbled into dust. Investigators will look in particular at a badly damaged school in the stricken town of Amatrice, where 184 people died.
The Romolo Capranica elementary and middle school was built in 2012 – three years after an earthquake which hit the nearby city of L’Aquila killed 300 people – and was supposed to be quake-proof.
“The school did not collapse, but was damaged,” said Nicola Zingaretti, the governor of Lazio, one of the three regions affected. “There will be an inquiry.”
Had the earthquake happened during the day and in term time, instead of in the middle of the night during school holidays, dozens of children could have been killed or injured.
Giuseppe Saieva, the chief public prosecutor for most of the area affected, said he would be opening an investigation into whether anyone should be held responsible.
His investigation will look at the school in Amatrice, as well as a recently-restored bell tower which collapsed in the nearby village of Accumoli.
After the L’Aquila disaster seven years ago, Italy’s Civil Protection agency made available almost one billion euros for upgrading buildings in seismically-vulnerable areas.
But few applications for the grants were received, a failing which critics blamed on too much red tape and overly complicated forms.
“Here in the middle of a seismic zone, nothing has ever been done,” said Dario Nanni, from the Italian Council of Architects. “It does not cost that much more when renovating a building to make it comply with earthquake standards. But less than 20 percent of buildings do.”
He said the impact of the earthquake had been made worse by the widespread use of cement rather than timber beams in the construction of houses.
“These indestructible beams hit walls like a hammer and that is what made so many (houses) collapse.”
Italian authorities need to recognise that reinforced concrete is not the best material to use in seismic areas, another expert said.
“As already happened in previous Italy earthquakes, reinforced concrete does not absolutely guarantee safety,” Claudio Del Medico Fasano, president of the Ecological School Association, told the Ansa news agency.
“Italy is a seismic country and we’re living in a constant state of emergency. Instead we should focus our efforts on prevention, building with evolved anti-seismic techniques and leaving behind the old cement-based schemes”.
A columnist in Corriere della Sera, a respected daily newspaper, wrote: In a country where in the past 40 years there have been at least eight devastating earthquakes … the only lesson we have learned is to save lives after the fact. We are far behind in the other lessons.”
The death toll from the disaster could exceed the 300 killed by the L’Aquila earthquake as more bodies are pulled from collapsed homes, said Fabrizio Curco, the head of the Civil Protection Department.
The authorities said it was impossible to say how many people are missing because, during a busy summer period, many villages were hosting tourists from other parts of Italy who had come in search of fresh mountain air and local food festivals.
“We don’t know how many non-residents were here in the area,” said Laura Boldrini, the speaker of the lower house of parliament, as she toured Arquata del Tronto – once a pretty mountain village but now a wasteland of smashed homes, piles of rubble and crushed cars.
Holly Bancroft reports:
Italian prosecutors have launched an investigation looking into why the Rieti region appears to have been ill-prepared for Wednesday’s devastating earthquake, despite its proximity to a major fault line.
It will reportedly focus on Amatrice’s “Romolo Capranica” school, set up with funds raised following the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake. The school was said to be “quake-proof” but collapsed yesterday.
A clock tower in Amatrice that was destroyed in the quake will also be examined.
Local mayor Stefano Petrucci denied there had been negligence in the maintenance of the tower.
“I don’t want to get into a row about that now, we are already suffering too much,” he said.
Italian officials have downgraded the death roll from 247 to 241.
195 of the victims are from Amatrice and Accumuli in the Lazio region closer to Rome.
Aerial video near Pescara del Tronto in Italy shows the widespread damage caused by a 6.2-magnitude earthquake that struck the central part of the country on Wednesday.
Henry Samuel in Pescara del Tronto reports:
An eight-year old girl gave her life to save her little sister by throwing herself on top of the four-year-old when the devastating earthquake struck, relatives have told the Telegraph.
Giulia Rinaldi and her little sister Giorgia had no time to escape when the quake knocked her home down in the old town of Pescara del Tronto, whose winter population is just 135.
But she was able to launch herself on to of her little sister as the walls and ceiling came crashing down.
The sister who was saved escaped without a scratch.
Speaking to the Telegraph, her aunt, Francesca Sirianni, 31, said: “The firemen told us that when they found them, Giulia was lying on top of her little sister and had given her life to protect her.”
We live in the upper part of the town. They live in the in the lower, older part.”
“Their father, Fabbio, managed to pull out my cousin with her husband. But as he did so, he saw his daughters’ little legs disappearing into their room and he was convinced they had both died.
“But after 16 hours they managed to pull Giorgia out alive, but alas not Giulia.
She said that Giorgia didn’t even appear scared when rescue workers pulled her out. “She was smiling and joking with the firemen,” she said.
In hospital, Giorgia, asked about everyone – her grandmother, us, her parents, but not about Giulia.
“She is only four years old. It’s as if she doesn’t realise what has happened. She spent 16 hours under her sister. I am sure that unconsciously she knows her sister is dead but is too traumatised to talk about it,” said Ms Sirianni.
The parents and their daughter are recovering in hospital. The father badly broke his leg, while the mother, Michaele broke several ribs and had internal injuries.
Sobbing, Ms Sirianni, said: “I have lost so many people – friends, cousins, second cousins. Pescara no longer exists. It has gone.”
The surviving girl is a friend of another Giorgia, 10, who was pictured being pulled from the rubble on Wednesday night covered in dust.
James Badcock in Madrid reports:
Ana Huete was 27, married to an Italian, Christian Casini, from Rome, with whom she ran a pizzeria in Granada.
They were on holiday in Rieti. She may have been struck by a falling beam, while he was only injured.
Christian is said to have rang her parents to pass on the terrible news.
Monica, a survivor from the tourist town of Amatrice, told of her numbed response when a 4.5-magnitude aftershock rattled the area just after 5.00 a.m, reports AFP.
“We are sleeping in the car and there were shocks all night. When the biggest one came, the car started moving and shaking.
“But what have we got to lose now? We have lost our house. So many friends and family are dead. We have lost everything, even our fear,” she told AGI news agency.
A group of 75 asylum seekers living in Gioiosa in southern Italy have handed over their meagre daily allowance – 17 euros a day – so it can be used to help Italian victims.
They pitched in to offer the small but significant sum of 200 euros as thanks for being welcomed to the country.
Elenco aggiornato punti di raccolta a Roma per donare beni e prodotti ai cittadini colpiti dal sisma (3 versione) pic.twitter.com/qGyOBkcwXP
An employee at the hotel, which was all but destroyed yesterday, has written the following blog post:
If one asked, “excuse me, where you eat the best Amatriciana?” most would say “at the Hotel Roma, Amatrice.”
The hotel was a keen producer of Amatriciana – until last night.
There is no more, now. The earthquake has killed it.
Last night there were many people who came to dinner in the Great Hall, which was filled with the tinkling of glasses and the smells of good food.
A visit to the Hotel Roma was a must for lovers of Amatriciana. It was a delight.
They pulled out two bodies today, but there were seventy diners last night.
The Hotel Roma in Amatrice is well known for its Amatriciana bacon and tomato pasta sauce , with food lovers flocking to the area every year for a rustic festival.
There were around 60 guests in the hotel when it collapsed on Wednesday – rescuers say roughly half that number managed to escape.
They are using sniffer dogs and their bare hands to prise apart the huge concrete blocks, beams and other bits of debris covering the survivors.
Sky News recently tweeted before and after photos of the hotel front.
Their villages were destroyed in the earthquake – and this morning Italian residents woke up to find themselves not in their homes but in makeshift tents.
The civil protection agency has set up a network of campsites for those with nowhere else to go following the quake.
Bleary-eyed residents were seen sipping from mugs with blank expressions suggesting the grim reality of their situation was yet to sink in.
Some people have opted to sleep in their cars instead of the tents.
In Amatrice, many survivors – including young children – spent the night in a sports hall.
Several ventured outside in their sleeping bags on the hunt for some breakfast on Thursday morning.
Images on social media show hundreds of Italians lining up to give blood following Wednesday’s earth quake.
The Lanzio region said more than 200 people offered to give blood this morning in Umberto.
Henry Samuel in Rieti writes:
Tales of family tragedy and lucky escapes were emerging after the devastating earthquake in central Italy.
Leone and Samuele, two brothers aged seven and four, were pulled out of the rubble in Pescara del Tronto alive yesterday after their grandmother pushed them under her bed. It was feared she had died, but Ansa, the Italian news agency, confirmed that she was finally recovered alive last night.
In Amatrice, emergency services managed to pull one seven year old boy, Simone Serafini, from the ruins of the family home and transferred him via helicopter to Rome for treatment last night.
But sadly his twin brother, Andrea, was found dead shortly afterwards.
Many parts of Italy – including the central region hit by Wednesday’s quake – lie on a major seismic fault line.
According to the Foreign Office, tremors and earthquakes “are almost a daily occurrence.”
They are also caused by movements in the Eurasian and African tectonic plates, which are in conflict with each other.
It is not the first major earthquake to devastate Italy – in 2009 more than 300 people were killed in L’Aquila, close to the area of Wednesday’s earthquake.
This clock tower remained standing throughout the quake but stopped at the exact moment the quake struck: 3:37am.
What was once the thriving main street of Amatrice now looks like it has been hit by a sustained artillery attack, writes our Rome correspondent Nick Squires in a dispatch from Rieti.
One of the buildings worst hit was the convent and church of the Most Holy Crucifix.
The three-storey building folded in on itself, its historic bell tower crashing to the ground.
I was sleeping but suddenly heard this strange noise. I woke up and saw that everything was destroyed, said Marianna, 35, a nun who was helping to look after the elderly people staying in the convent on a summer retreat.
She sustained a deep gash to her forehead and her hair was matted with blood and dust.
She was rescued by a young local man who hauled her out of the wreckage.
They then heard more cries for help – two other nuns were trapped in the debris. This time it was a pair of local forest rangers who went to the rescue.
They performed a very heroic act, they risked their lives. I’m sure God will reward them, Marianna said. A panel on the outside of the convent that recounts its history notes that it was badly damaged by an earthquake before – back in 1639.
Nick Squires in Rieti reports:
There was a very big, 4.5 magnitude aftershock at 5.17am local time. It caused panic I gather amid survivors sleeping out in tents and in their cars in the villages hit by the quake.
Italian TV is claiming that the death toll is now 247.
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