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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

They always rebuild

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L' Aquila, Italy earthquake leaves over 150 dead; Central Italy on alert

Italy's worst earthquake in 30 years hit Abruzzo’s rough mountains in the middle of the night, killing more than 150 people as they slept and razing irreplaceable ancient buildings.

The death toll was expected to grow Tuesday: Faint cries filtered from piles of rubble in many devastated villages and towns as frantic family members, still clad in pajamas, dug in the stones with their bare hands last night.

More than 50,000 people were left homeless in L’Aquila, the walled medieval town at the quake’s epicenter, 70 miles east of Rome.

“A few houses have remained standing - but just a few,” said Stefania Pezzopane, provincial president of L’Aquila.

“It is like a horror movie.”

A grim-faced Gianfranco Fini, speaker of the lower house of parliament, said, “Some towns in the area have been virtually destroyed in their entirety.”

Italian TV reported on a 2-year-old girl pulled alive from the rubble, shielded from harm by her mother’s corpse.

A woman helped rescuers locate her in the dusty ruins of a house by talking to them on her cell phone. A man clad only in underwear sobbed and hugged his saviors after being pulled to safety. Pelted by a nasty hailstorm, shell-shocked survivors huddled in parks, soccer fields and open piazzas away from the crumbling buildings.

Italian officials said the quake registered a magnitude of 5.8 and shook all of central Italy when it struck Monday at 3:32 a.m.

The postcard-perfect Romanesque Basilica di Santa Maria di Collemaggio, whose intricate pink-and-white facade made it one of the city’s most photographed sites, partly collapsed.
It had stood since 1300.

The National Museum of Abruzzo, housed in a 16th century palazzo, was badly damaged and could not be entered safely.

The bell tower of the town’s Renaissance-era Basilica of San Bernardino toppled.

The nearby village of Onna, home to about 400 people, was almost entirely flattened.

“It was like the apocalypse,” said Antonella Foresta, 35.

“When we came out of our house after the quake, there was smoke and dust, and buildings were still collapsing around us. My family was saved by a miracle.”

Pope Benedict said he was praying for the victims during Holy Week.

“There’s going to be a lot of people praying right now,” said Anthony Sacramone, 53, a co-owner of Sac’s Place, an Abruzzese restaurant in Astoria, Queens.

Like many Italian New Yorkers, he was worried about relatives back home. But he was confident the area would recover.

“They always rebuild. Look at Naples and the towns outside of Vesuvius,” Sacramone said.
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