Body of missing Israeli found in Italy

Hussein Hamada's father identifies body; earthquake death toll now up to 272.

italy earthquake 2 248.88 (photo credit: )
italy earthquake 2 248.88
(photo credit: )
Three days after a massive earthquake shook central Italy, rescue teams found the body of missing Israeli medical student Hussein Hamada under the ruins of his dormitory in the town of L'Aquila, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday afternoon. Hamada's father, who flew to central Italy following Monday's devastating earthquake, identified his son's body. Hamada, 23, from Kabul in the Western Galilee, had been studying for at the University of L'Aquila for 14 months. L'Aquila, a town of some 73,000 inhabitants and the capital of the Abruzzo region, is about 100 km. northeast of Rome, and near the epicenter of Monday's quake. The Israeli embassy in Italy will arrange for the body to be transferred to Israel as soon as possible. After sending a letter of condolences to the Italian premier on Tuesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke with his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday and again gave his condolences to the Italian people for the tragic earthquake. The leaders agreed that Israel would send a team of trauma experts to L'Aquila within the next few days. Netanyahu told Berlusconi he was glad to offer any assistance and noted Israel's experience in rescue and reconstruction operations. Earlier Wednesday, Berlusconi said the death toll in the earthquake that hit L'Aquila had reached 272 people, including 16 children. The Italian premier said at least 100 of the roughly 1,000 injured people were in serious condition, and nine bodies still had to be identified. The town's bishop, Giuseppe Molinari, would hold a funeral service for the victims on Friday, the Italian prime minister said. Berlusconi added that some 17,000 people left homeless by the quake that struck Monday had found shelter in tent camps set up by authorities, while another 10,000 people were housed in hotels along the coast, bringing the overall number of homeless to almost 28,000. Hamada was apparently in the suite he shared with other Israeli students when the quake hit. On Tuesday, Army Radio reported that Hamada had last made contact with his family on Saturday. About 50 Israelis study in the town, mostly in the medical school. Ten left for Israel on Monday, while 40 went to Perugia, in Umbria. Of those 40, twenty were to fly to Israel on Tuesday, and the rest were to return home on Wednesday. According to one of the Israelis present at the time, the structure was almost completely destroyed. "It was very, very scary," Alla Washahi, another student who had been staying there, told Channel 2. "The building was almost completely destroyed." "Despite the fact that there was an earthquake a week earlier, we were not prepared for this," he added. Washahi painted a grim picture of the aftermath. "It's chaos," he said. "All the houses are ruined, dormitories, the whole city is destroyed. There's panic; people are in shock." Despite the devastation, Washahi said rescue services were on the scene and providing ample services. "They are distributing food and water," he said. "Nothing is missing." He said that all of the Israelis studying in the area had been gathered together and were being offered transportation home - except for one. "A big portion of the group here is going home," Washahi said. "Only one is still missing, and we haven't heard any word." Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman spoke with his Italian counterpart, Franco Frattini, following Monday morning's quake and offered to dispatch any help needed. Magen David Adom chairman Dr. Noam Yifrah sent an urgent letter to the president of the Italian Red Cross expressing sorrow over the earthquake. Yifrah also offered any help required and is awaiting the Italian Red Cross's requests. A delegation of Israeli experts headed to L'Aquila on Wednesday to examine damage to bridges, roads and interchanges. The team of representatives from the National Roads Authority and external experts will attempt to draw conclusions on how to prevent such damage in the event of such a quake occurring in Israel. Lisa Palmieri-Billig contributed to this report from Rome.