The death toll in the earthquake that hit central Italy on Wednesday has climbed to 247, with hundreds still unaccounted for or severely wounded, Italian authorities said Thursday morning. Almost 200 people died in the towns of Amatrice, which was largely destroyed by the 6.0 magnitude quake, and Accumoli, about 100 miles northeast of Rome.
"I'm afraid the number of victims will climb today, and not by a little," said Nicola Zingaretti, the president of the Lazio region, which took the brunt of the damage. Some of the towns hit hardest by the earthquake are in a mountainous area where narrow roads are hampering rescuers' access.
Italian newspaper La Repubblica said local prosecutors have opened an investigation to determine whether shoddy construction was the cause of some building collapses. Several buildings in the area affected by Wednesday's quake had been rebuilt or strengthened after the 2009 quake in the nearby city of L'Aquila that killed more than 300 people — but some of them still collapsed.
Drone footage filmed by the Italian Fire Department showed the extent of the destruction in Amatrice, as rescuers sifted through the rubble.
#terremoto, ricognizione aerea #drone #vigilidelfuoco macerie #amatrice pic.twitter.com/Ymn8h3T4CI
— Vigili del Fuoco (@emergenzavvf) August 24, 2016
Culture minister Dario Franceschini said that all Italian museums will donate proceeds from ticket sales on Sunday to the recovery. Prime minister Matteo Renzi, who visited Amatrice on Wednesday, is skipping a European Union summit Thursday to focus on the rescue effort.
A sports hall converted to shelter for earthquake victims in Amatrice (Photo by Flavio Lo Scalzo/EPA)
Tents for homeless earthquake victims and emergency equipment in Amatrice (Photo by Flavio Lo Scalzo/EPA)
The government has allocated an emergency fund of around 250 million euros ($280 million) for the effort, but that money is not remotely enough to cover the likely cost of recovery and rebuilding. The cost of the 2009 L'Aquila quake, comparable by magnitude and extent of the damage, has run into the billions of euros.