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Death toll in Italy quake rises to 207


ROME, April 7 (RIA Novosti) - The death toll in a powerful earthquake that hit the mountainous region of Abruzzo in central Italy has risen to 207, the Italian prime minister said on Tuesday.

Silvio Berlusconi said 17 bodies had yet to be identified.

Italian authorities previously reported 179 fatalities and about 1,500 injured in the quake early Monday and subsequent aftershocks.

The quake, measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale, destroyed thousands of buildings and left some 70,000 people homeless.

Civil defense officials said the earthquake had caused damage to 26 cities and towns in the area, with around 10,000 buildings completely destroyed in the medieval town of L'Aquila, the regional capital that was near the epicenter.

"Some towns in the area have been virtually destroyed in their entirety," said Gianfranco Fini, the parliamentary speaker for Italy's lower house.

Italian Infrastructure and Transport Minister Altero Matteoli said over 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) would be needed to rebuild the damaged homes.

He said the Cabinet would meet on Thursday to discuss funding.

Berlusconi, who canceled a two-day visit to Russia to deal with the tragedy, said earlier his country did not need aid from other states. He also said an emergency government meeting on Monday night had allocated 30 billion euros ($40 billion) to deal with the consequences of the earthquake.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev reiterated on Tuesday Moscow's offer of help.

"Russia is ready to provide any, including technical, assistance," Medvedev said at a meeting with an Italian business delegation in Moscow. "We're with you."

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