Rescue operations continue in the province of L’Aquila after an earthquake measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale devastated the area on 6 April.

As of 14.00 on 7 April prime minister Silvio Berlusconi said the death toll stood at 207, including many children, with 15 people still to be identified. The premier added that 150 people had been found alive.

Instead the authorities have revised downwards to 17,000 from 70,000 the number of people left homeless as a result of the quake. Italian news agency ANSA reports that many displaced residents chose to spend the night in their car or with friends or relatives living elsewhere rather than in the impromptu shelters provided by relief agencies.

The rescue operations have been accompanied by a series of aftershocks including three major ones at 01.15 11.27 and 19.45 on 7 April, which were clearly felt even in Rome.

The government has made available €30 million to tackle the emergency, which will be supplemented by further funds from the European Union. Rome city council has also allocated €1 million.

Meanwhile the prime minister has announced plans to create a “new town” near L’Aquila as part of a controversial package of measures to kick-start the flagging construction industry.

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