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Aftershocks shake central Italy as search persists

| Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
A volunteer takes some rest amid relief supplies in a makeshift camp set up inside a gymnasium following an earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy.
A volunteer takes some rest amid relief supplies in a makeshift camp set up inside a gymnasium following an earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy.
A firefighter salvages a  damaged crucifix Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, from San Lorenzo e Flaviano church following an earthquake in San Lorenzo, central Italy.
REUTERS
A firefighter salvages a damaged crucifix Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, from San Lorenzo e Flaviano church following an earthquake in San Lorenzo, central Italy.

AMATRICE, Italy — Strong aftershocks continued to strike central Italy on Friday, as rescue crews began to lose hope of finding additional survivors two days after a deadly earthquake that killed more than 280 people.

In the devastated town of Amatrice, reduced to rubble and ruins by the magnitude-6.2 earthquake, an aftershock of magnitude 4.7 struck Friday morning, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

This came after more than 50 smaller aftershocks rocked Italy's Apennine Mountains region throughout Thursday night. More than 1,000 aftershocks have shaken the area since the earthquake struck early Wednesday.

The overall death toll rose Friday to 281, the Italian Civil Protection Department said.

The tremors damaged two key bridges bearing roads into Amatrice, threatening to cut off the centuries-old hilltop town from much-needed assistance, Mayor Sergio Pirozzi told reporters.

“With the aftershocks yesterday but especially this morning, the situation has worsened considerably,” Pirozzi said. “So in terms of the emergency, we have to make sure Amatrice does not become isolated.”

He vowed that the town would be rebuilt “here, with the same looks, the same face” — just the way it was designed in the 16th century.

Meanwhile, ambulances were carrying the recovered bodies of quake victims to an airport hangar in the provincial capital Rieti, the Associated Press reported. There, four large refrigerated trucks were being used as a makeshift morgue, where relatives arrived in a steady stream Friday to identify loved ones.

“In this phase, ⅛rescue workers⅜ are looking for corpses,” said Egidio Pelagatti, 60, the national operations manager for the public assistance organization known as ANPAS Lazio. Speaking at a small tent encampment for people displaced by the quake, he described the vacant stares of survivors and their fears of having to move away from their ancestral town.

“They all have the same gaze,” Pelagatti said. In a town that lost at least 221 of its estimated 2,600 inhabitants, many of them related, the earthquake exacted a disproportionate toll here. “The whole community has been struck,” he said.

Now, people are “very scared of being transferred and of no longer being able to come back here,” Pelagatti said. “People are afraid of ending up living in a ghetto.”

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