Officials hope to relocate people as weather cools in mountain area
Death toll climbs to 281 as aftershocks continue
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Desperately needing food and shelter, more than 2,000 Italians are taking refuge in makeshift camps after this week’s powerful earthquake killed at least 281 people and flattened entire villages.
Camps have been set up in several affected areas, including Amatrice, the hardest-hit town, where hundreds of people were killed and buildings – many from the 14th century – crumbled in the aftershocks.
Italy’s civil protection agency told CNN that 2,100 people were living in the camps and said that more would be built to accommodate those in need.
Images from an Amatrice camp showed displaced people lining up for pasta and an elderly couple sitting on the edge of mattresses on a gym floor, having a meal as those around them hug and console one another.
’So many dead, so many children’
At a camp in Sant’Angelo, northeast of Amatrice, people gathered and shared their stories of loss.
One woman, Angelina Leone, could not hide her devastation.
“There is no hope, too many people dead. And Amatrice doesn’t exist anymore. Amatrice has disappeared, and there are so many dead, so many children,” she said, holding back tears.
At yet another camp, in Accumoli, Anna Maria Volpetti, 52, told CNN she had been visiting her hometown with her family when the quake hit.
“We are lucky,” she said. “The earthquake was brutal. It came in waves.”
Giampiero Antonetti of the civil protection agency in the Abruzzo region said that teams were trying to relocate people out of the camps as the weather in the mountainous area cools.
“We will look for places for them to stay – hotels, with relatives. Yesterday during the night it almost reached freezing, so people cannot be here for a long time.”
The death toll is steadily creeping up. It is unclear how many people remain trapped under the mounds of concrete, brick and stone. The rescue mission entered its third day Friday – still within the crucial 72-hour window, after which the likelihood of survival drops.
“Rescuers are very much aware they’re in a race against time,” said CNN correspondent Frederik Pleitgen, describing the disaster response as swift and well-organized.
But officials’ hopes of finding more survivors were fading, he said.