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Shoddy building probe in L'Aquila

L'AQUILA'S chief prosecutor announced an investigation into allegations of shoddy construction as workers continued to scour the rubble for people still missing after Italy's devastating earthquake five days ago.

Rescuers pulled one more body from a collapsed building yesterday, raising the death toll to 291.

Workers also picked through the rubble of an apartment building in L'Aquila after dogs trained to look for survivors indicated there might be life in the debris, but fire officials at the scene cautioned against concluding that a survivor was inside.

Sounds emanating from the rubble could be water running, an appliance or even an animal, rescuers said.

"The work is long, tiring and delicate, because you risk causing a cave-in. It is useless to work too quickly," said Luca Cari, a spokesman for the firefighters.


Engineers and geologists have said that buildings constructed to seismic-safety standards should not have collapsed in a 6.3-magnitude quake, raising the possibility that either building codes weren't followed or that shoddy materials were used in some cases.

L'Aquila Prosecutor Alfredo Rossini said he had opened a probe into possible criminal blame for the collapses.

"We have the duty to verify whether some buildings were really constructed out of sand, as has been indicated from several sources, or in other cases without steel," Rossini told Italian media.

He declined to list the suspicious buildings, but among those that crumbled or have been designated uninhabitable by the quake are a university dormitory and a hospital, both of which were built after seismic standards had been raised.

Firefighters picking through the rubble of some buildings told state TV on Friday night that some of the reinforced concrete pillars they had removed seemed to have been made poorly, possibly with sand.

While seismic activity continued throughout the night into yesterday, much was at a level not felt by the population, civil protection authorities said.

That allowed people in the region to have the first relatively calm night since the quake and tent cities housing 24,000 people prepared for Easter Sunday celebrations.


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