Looters dressed as firefighters robbing Italy quake homes

  • 29/08/2016
Firefighters stand next to a collapsed house following an earthquake in Amatrice (Reuters)
Firefighters stand next to a collapsed house following an earthquake in Amatrice (Reuters)

Police in quake-hit towns of Italy are increasing patrols after reports of looters raiding homes abandoned in the disaster.

Adding to the tragedy of the devastating earthquake, looters dressed up as firefighters have been robbing abandoned houses, reports say.

In Amatrice, the worst hit town, police said they had to stop a mob attacking a man who'd been caught leaving a house with a suitcase.

Rescuers believe they have found more bodies buried deep in the rubble of Amatrice, five days after the earthquake struck in central Italy, killing at least 290 people.

Pope Francis says he plans to visit the Italian towns devastated by the powerful earthquake.

The pontiff praised the extraordinary efforts of the search and rescue crews, who continue to scour the rubble looking for any remaining bodies.

He led prayers for the dead in his weekly address in St Peter's Square in Rome, saying he wanted to go to the earthquake zone to bring comfort to the survivors.

Priests in the quake zone held their regular Sunday services in large tents.

Residents of the hill town estimated that up to 10 people were still missing and emergency services said they had located three corpses in Amatrice's Hotel Roma, which, like much of the historic centre, was wrecked by the quake.

Deputy Mayor Gianluca Carloni said his uncle's body had still not been recovered from the hotel, which was particularly busy at this time of year because of a food festival.

Museums across Italy donated proceeds from their ticket sales on Sunday to help the rebuilding effort, while top flight soccer teams held a minute's silence before their weekend matches out of respect for the victims.

Amatrice's municipal website said the town had 100 churches, but every one was damaged by the disaster and many would have to be demolished.

With aftershocks continuing to rattle the region, including a magnitude 4.4 quake centred on the nearby city of Ascoli Piceno, residents were still struggling to absorb the disaster.

"It took me 20 years to get my house, and then, in just 10 seconds, it was gone, like so many others," said Ascenzio Attenni, who lived in the hamlet of Sant'Angelo outside Amatrice, where eight people died.

Rescue operations in most of the area were halted two days ago, but teams were still combing Amatrice, which is 105 km east of Rome.

The fire service said it was trying to remove some of the fallen masonry at the Hotel Roma and create a safe path to retrieve the three bodies as soon as possible.

The Civil Protection Department lowered the official death toll on Sunday to 290 from a previously given 291.

Italy has promised to rebuild the shattered communities and has said it will learn from the mistakes following a similar earthquake in the nearby city of L'Aquila in 2009, where much of the centre is still out of bounds.