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In Rubble Of Quake-Hit Italian Towns, Rescuers Race To Find Survivors

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

A video being viewed around the world shows a young girl being pulled from the rubble in an Italian town, safe, 15 hours after the earthquake struck. Two days after medieval towns across the region were leveled, it's a site rescuers are hoping to see but are unlikely to repeat.

The death toll has reached at least 267. And rescue workers are finding more dead bodies caught under collapsed buildings. To get the latest, we reached reporter Chris Livesay, who's in the hard-hit province of Ascoli Piceno in central Italy. Welcome.

CHRIS LIVESAY, BYLINE: Hi, Renee. Thank you.

: First of all, I gather there are a lot more aftershocks.

: There have been a lot more aftershocks. And specifically, in the town of Amatrice, there was one in particular that struck this morning. It registered 4.8 magnitude on the Richter scale. They're coming at all hours of the day right now. No one's getting any sleep around here. Lots of locals are sleeping in their cars or out in open fields.

The large loss of life has much to do with this time of year. So you can't help but think, if this earthquake had struck just a month later, after summer vacation, the number of dead and wounded would have been a lot lower.

: It has been three days since the earthquake struck. Are people still being rescued as of today?

: Well, I spoke to a woman who handles rescue dogs. And she told me that there's a window of about a hundred hours after the quake in which people can survive. That's if they have access to water. And you can really feel that rescuers are working against the clock.

Take Leonardo Ruta, for instance, in the small village of Arquata del Tronto. I caught up with him as he was setting up tents for survivors.

LEONARDO RUTA: I'm so tired because I have not slept. There are firemen, with aftershocks, trying to rescue people. So we can have fear here.

: Are there still...

RUTA: While there...

: ...People there?

RUTA: Yeah, I think at least two. But I'm not up to date on the information.

: Could they be alive?

RUTA: I would like, but I think not.

: And that's one rescuer helping in the relief effort.

: And people there, those who've survived this, are they losing hope?

: I think the gravity of this catastrophe is starting to sink in. In Amatrice, the town that was worst hit, I spoke to a husband and wife named Roberto Sipartenza and Monica Serrafini. They had just revisited their home for the first time since the quake.

MONICA SERRAFINI: (Speaking Italian).

ROBERTO SIPARTENZA: (Speaking Italian).

SERRAFINI: (Speaking Italian).

: So she says the house is completely destroyed. They don't know how they survived. They were in bed when the quake hit in the middle of the night. They said they clutched each other, thinking this was goodbye. When they crawled out of the rubble with their children, they saw what they call the ghost town. But when I asked what was next, they said to rebuild. In fact, the Italian government agrees. The culture minister said Italy must now rebuild the historic villages just as they were, albeit with anti-seismic standards in place.

: Right, so quite a challenge ahead though.

: Right. But rebuilding is part of being Italian, especially in this part of the country. In nearby Assisi, it was struck by earthquakes several times in history. In fact, there are frescoes adorning the walls of its main cathedral showing that rebuilding process. So it's something Italians, specifically in this part of the country, are used to doing and that they certainly have in front of them now.

: Well, thank you very much.

: Thank you, Renee.

: That's reporter Chris Livesay, speaking to us from the province of Ascoli Piceno in central Italy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.