Page last updated at 11:32 GMT, Tuesday, 7 April 2009 12:32 UK

Italy earthquake deaths soar - PM

Duncan Kennedy looks at the destruction in the village of Onna

Italian rescuers are continuing to search for survivors under buildings wrecked by a devastating earthquake which killed at least 207 people.

With 1,500 injured and some 17,000 homeless after Monday's quake struck L'Aquila and its region, many survivors spent the night in shelters.

One woman was rescued alive almost 23 hours after the quake, but 34 people are still thought to be missing.

Strong aftershocks were continuing almost 36 hours after the quake hit.

One was strong enough to move furniture in buildings in Rome, 95km (60 miles) away.

It's just a nightmare

Onna resident

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

It remained a very difficult and dangerous job as rubble was still moving and houses could still collapse, says BBC correspondent Duncan Kennedy in Onna, a badly damaged village in the region.

As rescue efforts continued:

  • A 23-year-old student was pulled alive with the help of specialist cavers from the rubble of a four-storey building in L'Aquila more than 22 hours after the quake struck
  • One body was retrieved from a university dormitory at dawn on Tuesday, while rescuers continue to search for about four others believed trapped inside
  • L'Aquila and the surrounding area were without water

Duncan Kennedy
Latest from Duncan Kennedy in Onna, a village just outside L'Aquila

The search operation is still going on here. They are not giving up hope of finding people alive. It's a very difficult and dangerous job. We're not being allowed further because the rubble is still moving. The houses could still come down.

Even this morning, we felt tremors - that crack in the ground that you hear and the slight wobbling of the earth beneath your feet.

The long-term issue is at stake here. What are these people going to do in the days and the weeks and the months to come? They've got nowhere to live. Their homes are gone.

Survivors spent the night in hotels or at one of several tent camps which has been erected in the medieval hill city.

However, many preferred to sleep in their cars near their homes rather than to move to the camps.

At one tent city, volunteers handed out blankets, food and water to evacuees numbering 600.

Camp co-ordinator Paolo Diani said they were having to prioritise inadequate resources.

"As far as this first night is concerned, we gave shelter to elderly people and children, while we wait for more tents for everybody.

"And the tents will arrive tomorrow for all the population."

One charity said children would need help to recover from the trauma of the quake.

Save the Children's John Bugge said: "The children are showing signs of emotional stress - uncontrollable crying, fear of the dark."

"And these are all normal signs and we would expect that in children."

Many houses in L'Aquila have been reduced to rubble, and the streets are dotted with crushed cars.

Rescuers remove a body from a university dormitory in L'Aquila

Pouring rain overnight turned brick dust into a white sludge, hampering emergency workers as they moved bricks and broken pieces of wood with their bare hands.

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

In the nearby village of Onna, with a population 350, the quake killed at least 38 people and flattened buildings.

Evidence of the human tragedy of the quake is evident, with personal belongings among from the rubble of houses, says our correspondent in Onna.

Heavy equipment was being used to shift debris, while searchers were still looking for survivors.

One Onna resident who sheltered in a tent overnight said: "All of my family survived, and my friends too, but there are so many dead, so many dead in our blighted village.

"My husband helped the rescue workers and he pulled bodies out with his bare hands. It's just a nightmare," she was reported as saying by AFP news agency.

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

BBC map

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was due to visit L'Aquila on Tuesday, has said the country has the resources to handle the disaster.

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, but the age of the buildings makes them vulnerable to quakes.

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

"The historic centre of L'Aquila has been devastated."

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