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Earthquake in Central Italy

Catholic Relief Services' colleagues at Caritas Italiana are scrambling to find shelter and provide help to victims of a powerful earthquake that hit central Italy early Monday morning.

The quake killed more than 200 people and left thousands more injured, Caritas says. The group says at least 17,000 people are homeless. Caritas adds that it is especially concentrating on aiding the very young and the elderly, the most vulnerable among the survivors.

Aftermath of earthquake in L'Aquila.

Rescuers sift through the wreckage of a house after an earthquake in the Italian village of Onna April 6, 2009. Photo by Reuters/Chris Helgren, courtesy www.alertnet.org

Catholic Relief Services immediately began raising funds for relief efforts as well as supporting Caritas and earthquake survivors in prayer.

"American Catholics are reaching out to our Italian brothers and sisters affected by the earthquake," says Michael Wiest, CRS' executive vice president of Charitable Giving.

According to ReliefWeb, the 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck the mountainous area of L'Aquila in Abruzzo, leveling buildings and centuries-old churches. This was the worst earthquake to strike Italy in 30 years.

"One of our main concerns is for those who won't have a roof over their heads for this coming night," says Don Andrea La Regina of Caritas Italiana.

Pope Benedict has sent a telegram to the archbishop of L'Aquila expressing his solidarity with the victims of the disaster.

Caritas Italiana has made a request for funds to help its earthquake relief and recovery effort. It is coordinating activities among local Caritas in the area.

Many people are still thought to be missing as rescuers dig through the rubble of the medieval town of L'Aquila.

Twenty-five people were killed in the southern region of Puglia in 2002, many of them children who died when a school collapsed. In 1980, more than 2,700 people died when an earthquake struck south of Naples.

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