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Italian quake toll jumps to 207

RELATIVES of the missing watched in agony yesterday as rescuers dug desperately by hand for survivors of Italy's devastating earthquake, jarred by a strong aftershock that drove home the continuing danger.

The death toll increased to 207 as bodies were recovered and identified. Tent camps housed some of the 17,000 left homeless by Italy's worst earthquake in three decades, but many spent the night in the chill mountain air without blankets or covers.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi surveyed the devastated region by helicopter and said the rescue efforts would continue for two more days - "until it is certain that there is no one else alive."

Berlusconi said that at least 100 of the roughly 1,000 injured people were in serious condition. As many as four students could still be inside a dormitory in L'Aquila - a central Italian city of Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance architectural treasures.

The ANSA news agency said a 24-year-old student, Marta Valente, was pulled alive with the help of expert cave explorers, from the rubble of a four-story building in L'Aquila more than 22 hours after the quake.

A series of aftershocks have hit L'Aquila and 26 surrounding towns and cities in the snowcapped Apennine mountains since the quake early Monday. Yesterday's aftershock appeared strongest around L'Aquila, a city of some 70,000 people.

Two buildings in Pettino, a suburb of L'Aquila, collapsed following the aftershock, the news agency reported, citing fire officials. No one was believed to be inside either building.

The ground shook in the nearly leveled town of Onna, about 10 kilometers away but caused no panic.

Rescuers were still trying to reach more isolated hamlets yesterday.

Officials said some 10,000 to 15,000 buildings were either damaged or destroyed. In Onna, 38 of the roughly 300 inhabitants were dead, rescue officials said.

Part of L'Aquila's main hospital was evacuated for fear of collapse, and few operating rooms were in use. Bloodied victims waited in hospital hallways or in the courtyard and many were being treated in the open.

Rescue workers arrived from throughout Italy, from as far away as Venice and Genoa.

The US Geological Survey said the main quake was magnitude 6.3 on the so-called "moment scale," but Italy's National Institute of Geophysics, using the Richter scale, put it at 5.8.


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