Death Toll in Italy Quake Rise to 250, Pope to Visit Soon

Aquilla, Italy (RPRN) 04/08/09-Authorities in Italy say the death toll from Monday’s earthquake has risen to 250, as strong aftershocks caused further fear among residents sheltered in tent camps.

A Red Cross member stands amidst rubbles in L'Aquila, central Italy, 08 Apr 2009
A Red Cross member stands amidst rubbles in L’Aquila, central Italy, 08 Apr 2009

Workers and survivors in the walled city of L’Aquila have been clawing through mounds of rubble searching for victims. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi says rescue efforts will continue over the coming days.

Pope Benedict says he plans to visit the area as soon as possible. Vatican officials say the trip will be shortly after the Easter holiday on Sunday.

Many Italians in the earthquake-hit region of Abruzzo spent a second chilly night in tents and cars.

About 20 tent camps have been set up to house more than 14,000 people in the mountain region, and field kitchens are providing food. Some hotels are providing free rooms to the homeless and to emergency crews.

In rare cases, survivors were found Tuesday, among them a 20-year-old girl and a 98-year-old woman.

A series of aftershocks interrupted rescue work on Tuesday, sending workers scrambling. The U.S. Geological Survey put the magnitude of one aftershock at 5.6.

Mr. Berlusconi has canceled a planned trip to Russia and declared a state of emergency in the affected region, where towns and villages were severely damaged or flattened.

U.S. scientists measured the initial quake at magnitude 6.3.

U.S. President Barack Obama telephoned Mr. Berlusconi to express condolences. The president said the United States stands ready to help the Italian people in their time of need.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.