A huge earthquake in central Italy killed more than 250 people as thousands of homeless sought shelter in hastily built tent cities. According to AFP News Agency Italian quake death toll rises to 250. The death toll is expected to rise.
The civil protection agency said that more than 70,000 people have been made homeless by a magnitude 6.2 quake and damaged 10,000 buildings, leveling many.
Some people took refuge in army barracks, stadiums and sports centres as nighttime temperatures dropped to about four degrees Celsius in the Abruzzo region.
Roughly 4,000 rescue workers were at the site and Italy will be able to access the European Union's disaster fund, said Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who canceled a trip to Moscow to be at the scene in Italy's rugged mountain region about 60 miles northeast of Rome.
The earthquake was Italy's worst since 2,570 people were killed southeast of Naples in 1980.
Berlusconi said a tent city with 2,000 tents that can house 8-10 people was being set up for people left homeless. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said some of the homeless would be put up in hotels as well, UPI reports.
The majority of residents had left the region by Monday night, either of their own volition or after being escorted by the authorities.
"You can say that most of the old city has been emptied of its residents," a public safety official said, adding that it was mostly elderly people who decided to stay.
Using floodlights and bulldozers workers attempted to find survivors, some who had been trapped for more than 20 hours, through Monday night.
One boy was pulled alive from the rubble.
"All we could see was his head sticking from the rubble, his entire body was buried," one of the firemen who rescued him said.
"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.
L'Aquila , where most of the dead are, has a population of 68,000 and lies about 100km northeast of Rome, the capital, Aljazeera reports.
The neighbouring villages of Villa Sant'Angelo and Borgo di Castelnuovo were almost completely destroyed.