Doctors Say Quake's Miracle Survivor Struggling

In Italy, rescue workers continue to look for suvivors from Monday's disaster.

April 8, 2009, 1:24 PM

L'AQILA, Italy, April 8, 2009 — -- A 5.2 magnitude aftershock struck n the Abruzzo region of Italy hit by Monday's quake, the U.S. Geological Survey said on Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

It was not immediately clear whether the tremor had caused any damage.

Rescue workers continue the grim task of finding more survivors, a group of them were thrilled to come across a survivor Tuesday who had been trapped in a collapsed student dormitory for 43 hours. The 20-year-old student Eleonora Calesi was initially said to be in "good condition" despite having been trapped in the rubble with her friend Enza's dead body holding her down.

"Give me some water," she whispered to police lieutenant Antonio Del Boccio as soon as she was taken out of the mountain of debris, according to Italy's La Repubblica newspaper. With tears in her eyes, she asked, "Where are mamma and papa?"

Then came the reports that her condition had taken a turn for the worse. Eleonora was admitted to an intensive care unit, suffering from "serious crush syndrome." After her dramatic televised rescue, she spent hours in the operating room. The condition of her right leg and left arm were especially critical. Six other earthquake victims are in the same unit, all of them in serious condition.

Later in the day, doctors at the hospital where she was recovering told Italy's state radio that despite the grave injuries that she sustained while trapped in the rubble, she was now in stable condition.

Two days have passed since a strong earthquake demolished a good part of the city of l'Aquila in central Italy and killed at least 265 people but the emergency is far from over.

Powerful aftershocks continue to rattle the area, one last night with a force of 5.6 and claimed the life of one person. Rescuers scrambled out of the rubble to avoid being crushed by debris.

First Funeral Held in Open Air, Because of Damaged Churches

The first funeral of one of the victims, a 22-year-old girl from town of Raiano near l'Aquila took place today. It was held in an open area as all the churches in the earthquake zone have been damaged.

Many of the burials will take place this coming Friday -- a solemn holiday in Italy known as Holy Friday, or Good Friday, which commemorates the crucifiction of Jesus of Nazareth.

Since Monday morning's earthquake, there have been 354 aftershocks -- 182 occurred Tuesday alone.

Rescue workers are locked in a battle against time to find more survivors trapped in the rubble. The death toll continues to rise; 16 of the victims are children and another three are still unidentified, according to Italian police.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi made his third visit in as many days to the quake-struck Abruzzo region. He made sure that the throng of reporters there knew just how much sleep he was losing over the disaster. ''I've beaten a personal endurance record: 44 hours without sleep,'' said the 72-year-old premier, who added, ''not bad for a a 35-year-old."

On Germany's N-TV channel, Berlusconi also advised earthquake survivors temporarily living in tents to assume a more carefree attitude about their situation.

"They don't lack anything," he told viewers on N-TV. "They have medical care, hot food. … Of course, their current shelter is temporary but one must take this like a weekend camping."

Those who survived the quake took a slightly different view.

One older woman described the conditions there to ABC News. "We are freezing here, here it's cold, there is no electricity, nothing. We can't live here, it's insane. I don't know what we're going to do." She continued, sobbing. "It's enough that we have no house. I just don't know what we're going to do. "

"We, my wife, my three sons, escaped with our lives, thank God," said Hugo, a Peruvian immigrant whose home in an apartment block had been destroyed in the quake and who was now at one of the tent cities. "But," he added, "we have nothing. I only have the clothes on my body, my children are in pajamas, we can't go back as the apartment is destroyed and there is nowhere to wash around here."

But, amid the tragic stories there were a few glimmers of hope.

Maria D'Antuono, a 98 year-old grandmother from the village of Tempera close to the city of L'Aquila, was lifted from her apartment after being trapped in it for two days. When she was asked on Italian television how she had passed the time, she simply replied that she had been keeping busy "knitting."

Pope Benedict Pledges to Visit L'Aquila After Easter

Pope Benedict announced in his weekly general audience today that he planned to visit the disaster-afflicted area soon.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardo said the visit would not take place before the Easter holidays, as the pope did not want to interfere with the rescue efforts.

So far, 17,772 people have been housed in 2,962 tents at 20 sites across the city of L'Aquila. Now, what they hope is that reconstruction will save the survivors from spending any more time than necessary without a roof over their heads.

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