Rome: Italy has declared a state of emergency in the areas worst hit by the devastating earthquake in the central Apennines which killed over 260 people and injured some 400.
Premier Matteo Renzi has pledged 50 million euros to re-build the quake zones in the border areas between the Lazio, Umbria and Marche regions as hopes of finding more survivors fade.
Renzi has also cancelled taxes for residents and announced a new initiative, “Italian Homes”, to tackle criticism over shoddy construction.
At least 268 people are now known to have died and 400 were injured in the quake, some critically, Italy’s civil protection agency said on Friday.
A total of 207 people were killed in the medieval mountainside town of Amatrice alone, the agency said.
Teams continued to search the rubble of toppled buildings for a second night, as hundreds of aftershocks have continued to hamper the efforts of the 5,000 rescuers.
The area’s population increases ten-fold in the summer, making estimates for the precise number missing difficult and officials expect the death-toll to rise further.
Another magnitude-4.7 tremor struck early on Friday causing further damage to buildings in Amatrice.
Prosecutors have opened a probe into Amatrice’s school, which collapsed despite having been re-built in 2012 to make it earthquake-proof.
Amatrice and Accumoli in Lazio and Arquata del Tronto and Pescara del Tronto in Marche were largely destroyed by the magnitude 6.2 earthquake that struck at 3.36 am on Wednesday.
Italian authorities launched a wider investigation on Thursday into the collapse of buildings in quake-devastated region, as questions were asked about why more lessons had not been learned from the 2009 earthquake in the central city of L’Aquila that killed 308 people and left tens of thousands of people homeless.
The US and the European Union have said they are ready to help quake-hit areas and the Catholic Church announced it is giving one million euros for earthquake relief.
Italy’s Conference of Bishops has called for a national donation drive to take place in all churches in Italy on 18 September to aid the stricken communities.