MILAN, ITALY – The death toll of the earthquake that struck central Italy early Monday morning has risen to 207, according to Italy's prime minister Silvio Berlusconi in a press conference today in L'Aquila, the city most damaged by the temblor.
“Rescue operations are proceeding well,” he said, adding that “150 people have been successfully pulled alive from the rubble.”
Reuters reports that a fireman pulled a boy alive from the ruins of a house after a day of digging. "All we could see was his head sticking from the rubble, his entire body was buried. We kept digging, picking piece by piece of debris and we finally
managed to get him out . When we did the fatigue was great but so was our
joy," he said.
But Berlusconi said that search operations will only continue for another 48 hours.
Aftershocks continued to rumble through the mountains of central Italy prompting most residents in the area to spend the night in tents or in their cars. On Tuesday morning, a 4.7 magnitude aftershock was felt 60 miles away in Rome.
Some remote villages near L'Aquila are thought to be completely destroyed. This was the deadliest quake in Italy in 30 years. In addition to the loss of life, the once-beautiful medieval city has lost much of its historical and artistic heritage, the state-owned TV Rai Uno reported. By one estimate, two-thirds of the buildings were significantly damaged.
Tomorrow, Mr. Berlusconi said, authorities will begin evaluating the economic damage. “I'd like to build here [on the ruins of L'Aquila] a new town. There will be private investment and thanks to the banks' goodwill, we will make mortgages easily accessible [for families who lost their homes] .”
"We couldn't turn old buildings into anti-earthquake palaces. But the new ones will be built with antiseismic systems," he said.
In the press conference, Berlusconi declined the offers of international help: “We thank foreign countries for their solidarity, but we invite them not to send their aid [blankets, medicine, or workers] here,” he said. “We are able to meet our needs by ourselves; we are a proud nation.”
This prompted criticism from the political opposition. “This is an emergency, and we ask the government to think carefully whether or not to accept help from others,” said the leader of the Democratic Party, Dario Franceschini. “There's nothing wrong" [in accepting aid], he said, pointing out that Italy has sent rescue workers to many other nations in the recent past.
Berlusconi said however that he may seek emergency funds for rebuilding from the European Union.
According to the prime minister, 7,000 rescue and aid workers are currently deployed in the region, and 20 camps have been built to provide temporary housing for 14,500 people.
The Italian Red Cross said they alone have 400 workers in the area and have delivered 10,000 blankets and provided 10,000 hot meals.