Italy earthquake: Children saved after hours under rubble

ITALY — Cheers erupted as rescuers pulled three children, including a baby,  from underneath rubble alive following a deadly earthquake on the Italian holiday island of Ischia off the coast of Naples.

The oldest, Ciro, had been stuck for more than 15 hours, according to rescue services. Rescuers worked through the night to free him and his two brothers, first pulling out seven-month old Pasquale, and then Mattias.

“There are no words to express our happiness and satisfaction, we worked all night taking enormous risks,” said Luca Cari, a spokesman for the Italian fire service.

“The two older boys took refuge under the mattress of their double deck bed when the house collapsed. The older one, Ciro, who is 11, the last one to be saved, is now in a good condition. During the night he screamed and cries: ‘Please save me, help! I don’t want to die’. Earlier this morning we were able to open a passage to pass him some water. Then a doctor, through that passage, gave him an oxygen mask so that he could breathe.”

The boys’ father, Alessandro, was on the terrace when the quake struck and their mother, Alessandra, who is seven months pregnant, was in the bath with the three children playing on the floor below, Italian media reported.

The parents were rescued first and then had an agonizing wait as rescue workers dug under the ruins of their home to find the children.

One woman has been confirmed dead, and another is also believed to be killed but the body has yet to be recovered.

Authorities say 39 people are injured with around 2,600 without shelter. More than a thousand tourists have already evacuated from the island, Italian media reported.

“We have sent away more than a thousand people who wanted to leave and today we set up a structure to assist the population,” Angelo Borrelli, the head of Italy’s Civil Protection force told La Republicca newspaper.

He said engineers were checking hotels to make sure they were structurally sound before transferring those whose accommodation was damaged in the quake.

The earthquake hit shortly before 9 p.m. local time Tuesday as many holidaymakers were sitting down to eat. The US Geological Survey said the quake had a magnitude of 4.3. Italian authorities earlier put it at 3.6, before revising it to 4.

The confirmed victim, an elderly woman, was hit by debris as a church collapsed in the town of Casamicciola on the north of the island, police said.