Rescuers have performed a “miracle” amid the rubble of a deadly earthquake in Italy after the third of three young brothers was found and freed more than 16 hours after it hit the holiday island of Ischia.
The 4.0-magnitude quake hit Ischia, about 55 kilometres off the coast of Naples, on Monday night killing two people, injuring at least 39 others and trapping the three young boys.
Grave fears were held for the Toscano family’s children as rescue workers toiled for hours through the night before first pulling out 7-month-old Pasquale.
Rescuers hailed the courage of the older boys, who spent 14 and 16 hours respectively waiting to be freed, talking with firefighters all the while, eventually receiving water and a torch.
One official told AP the older boy, 11-year-old Ciro, helped save his eight-year-old brother, Mattia, by pushing him out of harm’s way under a bed.
“There are no words to express our happiness and satisfaction. We worked all night taking enormous risks,” Italian fire service spokesman Luca Cari told CNN.
“During the night [Ciro] 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,” Mr Cari said.
The children were rescued hours after their father was dug from the rubble and their seven-month pregnant mother managed to free herself from their collapsed apartment.
“I promised them that after this was all over we would all go get a pizza together,” an emergency worker told Italian TV.
The national fire department, or Vigili del Fuoco, spoke of the rescue as a “miracle” as it published videos and pictures of the scene.
“I don’t know how to define it if not a miracle,” the boys’ grandmother Erasma De Simone told AP after the family was reunited at a hospital.
“We were all dead, and we are reborn.”
“Italy is united in the grief for the victims and in solidarity. We are all standing next to those committed to rescue efforts,” Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni wrote on Twitter.
A local doctor told ANSA that 39 people were injured, including one who was in a serious condition and was airlifted to Naples. Fifteen more were still hospitalised on Tuesday.
The quake “was really strong, and really scary,” Donatella Migliaccio, a local councillor, told DPA.
One Twitter user wrote: “A horrible experience, everything was shaking, plunged into darkness, houses were collapsing … a nightmare.”
Another tweeted: “I was on the couch watching TV. Blackout, shaking, something fell on my head. I scream, my mother grabs me and we ran outside.”
The earthquake struck at the height of the summer season, when the island’s population swells to take in more than its 64,000 registered residents. Some 2600 people were left homeless by the event, Italy’s Civil Protection agency said.
Overnight, people were accommodated on a football pitch, amid a temporary blackout and scenes of panicked people. On Tuesday, streets were clogged, with tourists’ cars queuing to board ferries taking them home.
Initial rescue efforts were constrained by limited local resources. Authorities sent more aid overnight, with a special boat from Naples, including sniffer dogs and units specialised in post-quake work.