Young brothers saved from Italy quake 'doing well'

Ciro, the eldest of three brothers, is carried from the ruins of a house which collapsed after a quake on Ischia. Picture by Cesare Abbate/Ansa/via AP
Ciro, the eldest of three brothers, is carried from the ruins of a house which collapsed after a quake on Ischia. Picture by Cesare Abbate/Ansa/via AP

THREE young brothers rescued from the rubble of their home after a 4.0-magnitude earthquake are doing well, according to hospital officials on the Italian resort island of Ischia.

The three boys - seven-month-old Pasquale, eight-year-old Mattias and 11-year-old Ciro - were brought to safety in a 14-hour operation.

Hospital officials said the boys are expected to be discharged on Wednesday.

Only Ciro suffered injuries with a minor fracture on his right foot. He is credited with helping save Mattias by pushing him under a bed, and drawing rescuers' attention by banging a broom handle on the rubble.

At least two people were killed in the quake while 39 were injured and 2,600 left homeless.

The fatalities were an elderly woman who was in a church that crumbled in the quake, and a second person who has been located in the rubble but not yet extracted.

Video released by firefighters showed rescuers passing baby Pasquale out of the collapsed structure in hardest-hit Casamicciola.

The Ansa news agency said cries of joy went up in the crowd of rescuers and onlookers and the boys' mother ran to take him. Mattias and Ciro were rescued hours later.

The children's father told RAI state television the boys were in a bedroom when the quake struck, while he and his wife were elsewhere in the house. The mother, who Italian media said is heavily pregnant, escaped through a window while rescuers helped the father.

Firefighters' spokesman Luca Cari said they maintained voice contact with the two older boys during the complex rescue operation to create an opening through the collapsed ceiling. The boys had been given bottles of water and a flashlight.

The quake hit during the height of the tourist season, and Italian television showed many visitors taking refuge in parks following the quake. Authorities began organising ferries to take tourists back to the mainland.

Together with the nearby island of Capri, Ischia - in the Gulf of Naples - is a favourite island getaway for the European jet set, famed in particular for its thermal waters.

Casamicciola was the epicentre of an 1883 earthquake that killed more than 2,000 people.

Images from the quake zone show many buildings collapsed into rubble, while others showed signs of structural damage with deep cracks in exterior walls. Cars were overturned.

The extent of the damage for a relatively light quake raised questions about the quality of construction on the island in the seismically active area off Naples and the active volcano, and the prevalence of illegally built structures.

Fabrizio Pistolesi, the head of Italy's national architecture advisory board, told Sky that many buildings on the island were built before seismic codes were adopted. He also cited the high incidence of illegal construction on Ischia and generally in the Campagna region that includes the resort island and Naples.

Former Naples prosecutor Aldo De Chiara told Corriere della Sera that most of the recently constructed buildings on Ischia were built without necessary permits, and many with poor quality cement. "We warned about the risk of collapses," he said. "Unfortunately, what we had denounced happened last night."

The head of Italy's Civil Protection Agency, Angelo Borrelli, told reporters that 2,000 people had been left homeless in Casamicciola and 600 in Lacco Ameno. He said authorities were checking the stability of hotels to see if they could be used as temporary housing.