Central Italy rocked by new 4.4 aftershock following deadly earthquake

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A new 4.4-magnitude aftershock with a depth of about 9 km has rattled the region not far from the town of Arquata del Tronto in central Italy, the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre reported. The area suffered a deadly earthquake four days ago.

The aftershock’s center is located nearly 7 km from Arquata del Tronto. The tremor was felt in Rome, situated more than 150 kilometers south of the town, according to local broadcaster RaiNews24.

A powerful earthquake hit central Italy on Wednesday night, leaving at least 290 people dead with the death toll still rising.

READ MORE: Refugees & restaurants come to help destroyed Italian towns as death toll rises over 280

A number of small towns and villages were reduced to rubble. Rescue teams dug deep underneath the rubble in the search for possible survivors. Strong tremors were felt in the Italian capital on Wednesday night as well.

As many as 2,500 people have lost their homes to the earthquake, according to the data released by the Italian civil defense authorities.

More than 1,800 aftershocks have rocked the region since Wednesday’s quake with Saturday night being the first one without any major tremors.

Rescue operations are still in progress.

Italian authorities have launched a criminal investigation to establish the reasons why some of the buildings destroyed in Wednesday’s deadly earthquake collapsed so easily, though were said to have been built in compliance with high anti-seismic standards.

Investigators are focusing not only on recently constructed or renovated public buildings, but also private houses that could have been modified by their owners against existing building codes and anti-seismic engineering regulations.

“Everyone suspects such a tragedy was not just a question of misfortunes,” the chief prosecutor in the provincial capital of Rieti, north of Rome, heading the investigation, Giuseppe Saieva, said, according to local media. “We have to check if there was also human responsibility.”

The probe is paying special attention to two destroyed buildings that were recently restored – a bell tower in Accumoli that fell on a nearby home and killed a family and the Romolo Capranica school in Amatrice that was supposedly quake-proof.

In 2012 a consortium of builders signed a €700,000 contract with the town council to revamp the school in accordance with anti-earthquake safety standards, judicial sources reported.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis promised to pay a visit to the central Italian towns hit by the earthquake. At a Sunday prayer in Rome the pope stressed “how important solidarity is in order to overcome such painful trials.”

“Dear brothers and sisters,” he said. “I hope to come to see you as soon as possible, to bring you in person the comfort of the faith, the embrace of a father and a brother, and the support of Christian hope.”