L’Aquila, Italy Strong aftershocks Tuesday sent a fresh wave of fear across earthquake-shattered central Italy, and rescue crews pulled a young woman alive from a collapsed building about 42 hours after the main quake struck the mountainous region.
Eleonora Calesini, a 20-year-old student, was found alive in the ruins of the five-story building in central L’Aquila, said her grandfather, Renato Calesini, in the seaside town of Mondaini.
“She’s safe!” he told The Associated Press, adding that her father had gone to the devastated city in the snowcapped Apennine mountains to try to locate the student, who wears a hearing aid. She reportedly had an arm injury but was in good condition otherwise.
The death toll from Italy’s worst earthquake in three decades climbed to 235, with 15 still missing, civil protection officials said. The dead included four students trapped in the rubble of a dormitory of the University of L’Aquila, the ANSA news agency reported.
Rescue crews gave up gingerly removing debris by hand and brought in huge pincers that pulled off parts of the dorm roof, balconies and walls, showering debris down.
“Unless there is a miracle, I’ve been told (by rescuers) that they probably are dead,” university rector Ferdinando Di Orio said.
A strong aftershock at 7:47 p.m. rained debris on screaming residents and rescue crews, who ran from the site.
“I want to go home! I want to go home!” screamed a woman identified only as Patrizia after chunks of facade rained down on them from a badly cracked building.
Her hands trembled as rescue workers gave her a cup of water. Her boyfriend, Agostino Paride, 33, an engineer, said they had driven to L’Aquila from Civitella Rovedo, some 45 miles away, to bring food and clothes to relatives in a tent camp.
To shelter the homeless against another chilly night in the mountains, some 20 tent cities sprouted in open spaces around L’Aquila and surrounding towns. Field kitchens, medical supplies and clowns with bubbles — to entertain traumatized children — were brought in.
Officials estimated Monday that 50,000 people had been left homeless by the quake. By Tuesday evening, that number was lowered to between 17,000 and 25,000, because many moved in with friends or relatives.
“I don’t know how I’ll make it,” a dazed Pierina Diletti said as she stood in slippers and her nightgown outside her tent.
Premier Silvio Berlusconi, who visited one of the encampments, said an estimated 14,500 people were being sheltered in the blue tents.
Officials said some 10,000 to 15,000 buildings were either damaged or destroyed in the 26 cities, towns and villages around L’Aquila, a picturesque city of 70,000. Teams planned to begin surveying those buildings still standing today to see if residents could move back in.
“The assessment will concern every room, every slit, every crack,” Berlusconi told a news conference, adding that assessments of the region’s prized cultural treasures — churches, monuments and other historical sites — would begin soon.
Berlusconi surveyed the devastated region by helicopter and said rescue efforts would continue for two more days — “until it is certain that there is no one else alive.” At least 100 of about 1,000 injured people were in serious condition, he said.