Page last updated at 12:33 GMT, Tuesday, 7 April 2009 13:33 UK

'Cries came from above and below'

Rescuers carrying a victim from the rubble in L'Aquila
Rescuers carried people from the rubble throughout the day on Monday

As rescue work continues and communication lines are restored in areas worst-hit by Monday's Italian earthquake, eyewitnesses have been contacting the BBC with their accounts of the disaster.

Here one of them, Gabriel Kornel, an Australian musician based in Italy, describes his "harrowing" experience.

I was staying with my travelling orchestra in the village of San Gregorio, just outside L'Aquila, when the quake struck.

I was on the third floor of a guesthouse and refuge home for women and children, run by local nuns.

The walls shook violently and I was flung around like a rag doll, but luckily I was able to escape through a stairwell that was crumbling as I ran down it.

The building remained standing, despite severe damage, but the one across the road, which also housed nuns, children and mothers was not so lucky.

Half of it had collapsed and the other half, which was still barely standing, was on fire.

Women were wailing and banging their heads off walls, screaming at me and the other men to help rescue their children
There were nuns and children up there screaming that they were burning, so I and a couple of others managed to scramble a ladder and pull them out.

There were cries and screams coming from above and below with many trapped under the piles of concrete, dust and rubble at the back of the building.

There were muffled screams coming from all sides. It was pretty harrowing stuff.

We tried in vain to pull and drag at the heaps of mangled concrete, but were unable to lift any of it properly.

It was made even harder by bits of concrete falling everywhere, caused by the aftershocks.


Women were standing around wailing and banging their heads off walls, screaming at me and the other men to help rescue their children.

Rescue crews eventually arrived and managed to pull many of them out but one of the mothers in that building died.

The rest of the village looked like a battlefield and was mostly destroyed.

It looked like a massive bomb had gone off.

There were people trapped under many of the other buildings and others were being carried out by stretcher.

We were forced to leave for Rome, but throughout the day we heard of the death toll mounting in the village.

I heard up to 50 had died there at the last count.

We also heard that more and more people we knew had lost everything and were forced to flee to neighbouring villages and to Rome.

It was a frightening day, but thankfully we managed to escape with our lives.

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