The survivors included a 98-year-old woman in L'Aquila who was rescued after being trapped for 30 hours.

Maria D'Antuono, who was said to be in good condition, told Italy's ANSA news agency that she had whiled away the time by "doing crochet".

Aftershocks

The civil protection agency said that tens of thousands of people had been made homeless by the magnitude 6.2 quake which damaged 10,000 buildings, levelling many.

Some people took refuge in army barracks, stadiums and sports centres as temperatures during the night dropped to about four degrees Celsius in the Abruzzo region.

The new aftershocks struck fear into people, with residents running out of tents screaming and crying after a particularly strong tremor.

Buildings shook and masonry fell onto the streets but no new injuries were reported.

Addressing a news conference in L'Aquila on Tuesday, Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's prime minister, said: "We advise people not to go back into their homes."

He said that that the government had deployed 7,000 rescue workers and that efforts to find people still alive would go on for at least two more days.

The prime minister said the number of injured "was slightly higher than 1,000, of whom 500 were hospitalised, and of those 100 are in a serious condition".

"We have 190 identified victims and 17 not identified, so for the moment a total of 207 dead," Berlusconi said.

National emergency

The earthquake struck at 3.30am (0130GMT) on Monday, affecting 26 towns and cities within a 30km radius of L'Aquila, the epicentre.

IN DEPTH


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Berlusconi, who has declared a national emergency, said that $40m would be provided to assist the disaster zone initially and that he would additionally seek finance from an EU disaster fund.

"It is a serious disaster. Now we must rebuild and that will require huge sums of money... No one will be abandoned to his fate," Berlusconi said.

The majority of residents had left the region by Monday night, either of their own volition or after being escorted by the authorities.

"You can say that most of the old city has been emptied of its residents," a public safety official said, adding that it was mostly elderly people who decided to stay.

Using floodlights and bulldozers, workers attempted to find survivors, some who had been trapped for more than 20 hours, through Monday night.

One boy was pulled alive from the rubble.

"All we could see was his head sticking from the rubble, his entire body was buried," one of the firemen who rescued him said.

"We kept digging, picking piece by piece of debris and we finally managed to get him out - when we did, the fatigue was great but so was our joy," he said.

Rescue priority

Nazinine Moshiri, Al Jazeera's correspondent in L'Aquila, said: "Throughout the night and yesterday the priority really is to try to find survivors.

Italy has pledged 30 million euros to
help the region [AFP]
"In the last 24 hours two people have been pulled out of the rubble, we believe that they were students. L'Aquila is a student town, there are student dormitories dotted around," she said.

"A student dormitory was really badly hit - a 12-storey building almost reduced to rubble. Students had to jump out of windows ... when the earthquake struck.

"We understand that there are still students alive in the rubble of one of the main dorms.

"Homes, even if they are standing, are not structurally safe to return to.

"But it was the elderly and many children who were unable to get out of their buildings and they make the bulk of victims."

Moshiri said that individuals could be rescued days after an earthquake strikes, although hope in the region was diminishing.

"It is a battle against time for firefighters who are digging through the rubble, some by hand to get survivors."

"The problem is where are the survivors going to be homed in the coming weeks and months."

L'Aquila, where most of the dead are, has a population of 68,000 and lies about 100km northeast of Rome, the capital.

The neighbouring villages of Villa Sant'Angelo and Borgo di Castelnuovo were almost completely destroyed.