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Pope forced to swap copter for car on visit to earthquake zone


VATICAN, April 28 (RIA Novosti) - Bad weather forced Pope Benedict XVI to change his plans to travel to the earthquake-devastated Italian region of Abruzzo by helicopter on Tuesday.

The Pope instead set off for the region by car.

A powerful earthquake, measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale, hit the mountainous Abruzzo province in central Italy on April 6, killing 294 people and injuring another 1,500. Some 50,000 people were also made homeless.

The pope will visit earthquake survivors, many of whom are still living in makeshift housing and tents. He will also visit L'Aquila, the epicenter of the quake, to meet with the mayor and pray with residents.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said last week that the July 8-10 Group of Eight summit would be moved from La Maddalena Island to L'Aquila in a bid to attract funds for the region.

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