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Shocks could be felt 150km away

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6.2-magnitude earthquake in central Italy yesterday killed more than 70 people, destroyed homes of 2,000

Sitting with his brother in Illica, one of the Italian mountain villages devastated by a powerful earthquake yesterday, Mr Guido Bordo clasped and unclasped his hands.

The harrowed gesture spoke volumes about the anguish engulfing the 69-year-old.

"My sister and her husband are under the rubble, we're waiting for diggers, but they can't get up here," he told AFP.

"There's no sound from them, we only heard their cats. As soon as the quake happened, I rushed here. They managed to pull my sister's children out, they're in hospital now."

Mr Bordo's sister and her husband, who were on holiday from Rome, were among five people missing, presumed dead, in Illica alone.

Dozens more died in neighbouring villages and more than 2,000 people have been made temporarily homeless by the quake, which struck without warning in the middle of the night.

In some of the deserted shells of what were once family homes, phones rang off the hook.

Two women sobbed and hugged each other as a collapsed house on the main square was searched.

Firemen guided two dogs over piles of rubble in search of signs of life. One of the sniffers suddenly stopped and went back to a spot.

That was where the digging would start, but former firefighter Daniela Romanato, who was helping out with the rescue operation, did not hold out much hope.

"The dogs are trained to search and indicate trapped people.

"One has indicated there is someone underneath the rubble here, but no barking means the person is most likely dead," she said.

"We're sending a smaller dog in to see if it can get closer to the person, but it's very unlikely we're talking about survivors under here."


Mr Bordo's brother Domenico looked on as the search progressed.

He said: "We live quite far away, but felt the quake. We rushed to get news from the television and as soon as we saw it was here, we called my sister, but she didn't answer.

"I feared the worst and was right. I don't see how she could have survived under there."

In Accumoli, photographer Emiliano Grillotti said he saw over 15 people digging with their bare hands to save a family of four, according to La Repubblica.

This latest disaster was Italy's most powerful earthquake since 2009, when some 300 people died in and around the city of L'Aquila, just to the south of the area hit yesterday.

Ms Lina Mercantini of Ceselli, Umbria, told Reuters: "It was so strong. It seemed the bed was walking across the room by itself with us on it."

The shocks were strong enough to wake residents of central Rome, some 150km away.

The worst damage was suffered by Pescara del Tronto, a hamlet near Arquata in the Marche region which "just completely disintegrated", according to mayor Aleandro Petrucci.

Mr Tommaso della Longa, a Red Cross spokesman, said the town of Amatrice, which was at the epicentre of the quake, has been "almost completely destroyed".