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Monday, August 29, 2016, 09:56

Italy probes negligence in quake toll

By Associated Press
Italy probes negligence in quake toll
An Italian army excavator digs a new artery in Amatrice, central Italy, Aug 28, 2016. Bulldozers tore down trees and clawed into the ground non-stop to dig a new artery into the quake-stricken town of Amatrice. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

AMATRICE, Italy — Italian authorities are vowing to investigate whether negligence or fraud in adhering to building codes played a role in the high death toll in last week's earthquake in Italy.

They also called for efforts to ensure organized crime doesn't infiltrate lucrative construction contracts to eventually rebuild much of the picturesque towns leveled in the disaster.

Meanwhile, rescue workers pressed on with the task of recovering bodies from the rubble, with hopes of finding any more survivors virtually vanished more than four full days after the powerful quake.

Over the past two days, they found six more bodies in the rubble of Hotel Roma in Amatrice, the medieval hill town in mountainous central Italy that bore the brunt of destruction and loss of life in the powerful quake. They recovered three and by late Sunday were still working to retrieve others that were hard to reach.

It wasn't clear if those six were included in the overall 290 death toll given by authorities

The quake that struck before dawn Wednesday also injured nearly 400 people as it flattened three medieval towns near the rugged Apennines.

Prosecutor Giuseppe Saieva, based in the nearby provincial capital of Rieti, said the high human death toll "cannot only be considered the work of fate."

"The fault lines tragically did their work and this is called destiny, but if the buildings had been built like in Japan they would not have collapsed," Saieva said in comments carried by Italian media.

Investigations are focusing on a number of structures, including an elementary school in Amatrice that crumbled despite being renovated in 2012 to resist earthquakes at a cost of 700,000 euros. With schoolchildren's summer vacations in their final weeks, the school wasn't yet in use. Many were shocked that it didn't withstand the 6.2 magnitude quake.

Questions also surround a bell tower in Accumoli that collapsed, killing a family of four sleeping in a neighboring house, including a baby of 8 months and a 7-year-old boy. That bell tower also had been recently restored with special funds allocated after Italy's last major earthquake, which struck nearby L'Aquila in 2009.

Italy's national anti-Mafia prosecutor, Franco Roberti, vowed to work to prevent organized crime from infiltrating public works projects which will be eventually begun to rebuild the earthquake zone.

"This risk of infiltration is always high," he said in comments Sunday in La Repubblica newspaper. "Post-earthquake reconstruction is historically a tempting morsel for criminal groups and colluding business interests."

Deadly quakes that have led to criminal investigations into alleged misuse of funds or corruption involving awarding of construction contracts include the 1980 temblor in the Naples area and a 2009 quake in L'Aquila, central Italy.

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