Rome, As it mourned the dead, Italy declared states of emergency in the worst-affected regions following a devastating 6.2-magnitude earthquake that’s so far killed at least 268 people.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his Cabinet pledged $56 million for reconstruction efforts. Italian Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan will suspend taxes in affected areas.
Renzi declared Saturday a day of mourning in which flags on public buildings throughout Italy will fly at half staff. The towns of Amatrice, Arquata, Accumoli and Pescara del Tronto were the worst hit. More than 200 people died in Amatrice alone and its mayor said three-quarters of the town was destroyed.
Most deaths occurred in the Rieti province, while Ascoli Piceno province was also badly affected. Hundreds of aftershocks have disturbed the rescue efforts of about 5,000 workers. A 4.7-magnitude aftershock struck early Friday.
The initial quake struck at 3:36 a.m. local time Wednesday with an epicenter 47 miles southeast of Perugia at a depth of 6 miles, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.
Flags were ordered to half-mast across Italy Saturday to accompany funerals for some of the victims.
Officials warn the death toll may rise further if people possibly trapped in the rubble are not rescued soon.
“The chances of finding people alive in these conditions, in this type of setting, well, it’s challenging,” Amatrice fire department official Lorenzo Botti told BBC News.
The mayor of Amatrice said he guessed there could be around 15 more people still buried under the rubble in his town, Italy’s The Local reported.
“We will go on searching and digging until we are certain there is noone left,” Luigi D’Angelo, a Civil Protection official, added.
“I have been through earthquakes before, but this was not a quake, it was an apocalypse,” resident Anacleto Perotti said.
By Andrew V. Pestano and Doug G. Ware