Page last updated at 20:02 GMT, Tuesday, 7 April 2009 21:02 UK

Quake village crumbles in aftershocks

Broken bridge near Fossa, Italy
Roads leading into Fossa show evidence of the earthquake

By Dominic Hughes
BBC News, Fossa

In the ancient mountain-top village of Fossa, surrounded by the soaring snow-capped peaks of the Appenine mountains, the aftershocks of Monday's earthquake are still being felt.

Fossa was badly hit when the quake first struck and some of the houses that remain standing are far from secure.

Just before I arrived in the village - home to about 500 or so people - a large aftershock rocked the mountain.

Four officials had a narrow escape as the building they were inspecting at the time started to collapse. They ran for their lives as it crashed to the ground around their ears.

Damage in Fossa
Parts of some buildings in Fossa are collapsing into the streets

The first earthquake seems to have weakened some of the buildings, so they now collapse from the inside. The men who escaped were very lucky.

Now the village has been closed once again amid fears that more buildings could fall as the aftershocks continue.

Those shocks are an unhappy reminder of the earthquake to the thousands who now find themselves with no home to go to. As many as two-thirds of the buildings in L'Aquila and surrounding villages like Fossa are unsafe.

Last night many chose to sleep in their cars rather than leave the town they call home.

Field kitchen

But that is no long-term solution so, at an army base not far from the centre of town, the Italian Red Cross is building a temporary field kitchen that will provide 10,000 meals a day for families who have nowhere else to turn.

Volunteers are busy putting flooring down and unloading pallets of food - borlotti and cannelloni beans are stacked along with huge tins of plum tomatoes.

There are also large supplies of milk as well, of course, as water. The centre seems well resourced and well run.

The head of the Italian Red Cross, Francesco Rocca, says the situation is very grave. Tens of thousands face months of uncertainty.

Tents for homeless in Fossa
A sports field has been taken over as a tented community for the homeless

He says experience of previous earthquakes in Italy leads him to believe it will be many months before people are back in their houses, and maybe years before the town is rebuilt.

A little further along the road from the army camp, the pitch of the local sports stadium is covered in rows of large blue tents. Portable toilets and showers are being installed.

These will house families who have lost everything and fled their homes with just the clothes they stood in and with what few possessions they managed to grab as the earthquake struck.

The small tent city has got to be a better option than sleeping in a car, but it is a reminder that many hundreds of people have been turned into refugees in their own country.

Meanwhile the search for survivors continues.

There have been some successes with an elderly lady pulled out of the rubble after more than 30 hours.

But soon - perhaps tomorrow - the operation will change from rescue to clearance and L'Aquila will start on the long process of rebuilding.

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