As af­ter­shocks roil Italy, res­cue crews lose hope

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND | WORLD - By Paolo San­talu­cia and Ni­cole Win­field The Wash­ing­ton Post con­trib­uted.

AMA­TRICE, Italy — Strong af­ter­shocks con­tin­ued to strike cen­tral Italy on Fri­day, as res­cue crews be­gan to lose hope of find­ing ad­di­tional sur­vivors two days af­ter a deadly earth­quake killed at least 281 peo­ple.

A pow­er­ful af­ter­shock Fri­day da­m­aged two key ac­cess bridges lead­ing to hard-hit Ama­trice, threat­en­ing to iso­late it, Mayor Ser­gio Pirozzi warned.

“With the af­ter­shocks yes­ter­day but es­pe­cially this morn­ing the sit­u­a­tion has wors­ened con­sid­er­ably,” Pirozzi said. “We­have to make sure Ama­trice does not be­comeiso­lated, or risk fur­ther help be­ing un­able to get through.”

The big­gest af­ter­shock struck at 6:28 a.m., one of the more than 1,000 that have hit the area since Wed­nes­day’s quake.

The U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Ser­vice said it had a mag­ni­tude of 4.7.

Crews be­gan clear­ing trees to cre­ate an al­ter­nate by­pass road to avoid the nearly 25-mile de­tour up and down moun­tain roads that they were forced to use Fri­day, slow­ing the res­cue ef­fort.

Even be­fore the roads were shut down, traf­fic into and out of Ama­trice was con­gested with emer­gency ve­hi­cles and dump trucks car­ry­ing tons of con­crete, rocks and metal down the sin­gle-lane roads.

Mul­ti­ple am­bu­lances were also tak­ing the dead to an air­port hangar in the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal of Ri­eti, where four big white re­frig­er­ated trucks cre­ated a makeshift morgue to which rel­a­tives came in a steady stream Fri­day.

Prime Min­is­ter Mat­teo Renzi de­clared a state of emer­gency and au­tho­rized $56 mil­lion for im­me­di­ate quake relief.

The Ital­ian govern­ment also de­clared Satur­day a day of na­tional mourn­ing and sched­uled a state fu­neral to be at­tended by Pres­i­dent Ser­gio Mattarella.

Thirty-four cas­kets were lined up in a gym in As­coli Pi­ceno ahead of Satur­day’s Mass. A me­mo­rial ser­vice for the Ama­trice vic­tims is sched­uled for next week.

The first pri­vate fu­neral took place in Rome on Fri­day for the son of a pro­vin­cial po­lice chief who was hon­ored at one of Rome’s most im­por­tant basil­i­cas. One of Pope Fran­cis’ top ad­vis­ers cel­e­brated a fu­neral Mass for seven other vic­tims south of Rome.

Res­cue ef­forts con­tin­ued, but by night­fall, two full days had passed since the last per­son was ex­tracted alive.

“There is still hope to find sur­vivors un­der the rub­ble, even in th­ese hours,” Wal­ter Mi­lan, a res­cue worker, said Fri­day.

But he con­ceded, “Cer­tainly, it will be very un­likely.”

The head of the fire­fight­ing squad, Bruno Frat­tasi, said there was al­ways hope of find­ing some­one alive. But by Fri­day he was talk­ing more about time run­ning out and re­cov­ery ef­forts.

“We hope to re­cover all the bod­ies,” he said.

He said the toll had sta­bi­lized in the Arquata area of eastern Le Marche re­gion, with 49 dead and no one else un­ac­counted for.

In Ama­trice, the sit­u­a­tion was more un­cer­tain; Mayor Pirozzi has es­ti­mated there could still be 15 peo­ple un­ac­counted for.

GREGORIO BORGIA/AP

A woman touches a cof­fin of one of the vic­tims of Wed­nes­day’s quake, in­side a gym in As­coli Pi­ceno, Italy, on Fri­day. Thirty-four cas­kets were lined up for Satur­day’s Mass.

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