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DESPERATE HUNT AS QUAKE DEATH TOLL RISES; More than a dozen tots still trapped in school.

RESCUERS today frantically hunted for survivors of an earthquake which killed at least 23 people, including 21 children crushed when their school collapsed.

Emergency crews guided by voices under the rubble used cranes, sledgehammers, blowtorches and their bare hands to try to reach the youngsters, who had been celebrating Hallowe'en.

The death toll mounted quickly after midnight. Firefighters said 23 people were confirmed dead - 21 children in the school and two women in nearby homes. More than a dozen children and one adult are thought to still be trapped.

The bodies were taken to a makeshift morgue at the town's sports centre, where family members came to identify the dead.

The 5.4-magnitude quake hit the Campobasso area northeast of Naples in the Molise region at 11:33am (12.33 GMT) yesterday. San Giuliano di Puglia, a medieval farming village of about 1,195 people, was the hardest hit, with several buildings damaged.

Italy's ANSA news agency said 3,000 people in the region were left homeless, unable or unwilling to sleep in their damaged houses.

The yellow nursery school in San Giuliano di Puglia collapsed entirely on itself, trapping 56 children, their teachers and two janitors inside as they celebrated a Hallowe'en party. By mid-morning today, 26 children and three teachers had been rescued.

Anguished parents in vigil at school, Page 10

CAPTION(S):

SAFE AT LAST: A boy is rescued from under the rubble of the collapsed school roof in San Giuliano di Puglia near Campobasso in southern Italy after yesterday's quake during a Hallowe'en party
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Nov 1, 2002
Words:258
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