L'AQUILA, ITALY — This earthquake-ravaged medieval city took a limping step toward normality Thursday as shopkeepers reopened for business and firefighters began entering buildings to collect essential items for the homeless.
Three days after the quake the death toll had risen to 283, including 20 children and teens, police said. The magnitude 6.3 quake made the city's historic center uninhabitable and halted nearly all economic activity.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said the government had increased emergency aid to $133 million.
On yet another day punctuated by aftershocks, a particularly sharp tremor rocked the area at 9:38 p.m. The shaking lasted about a minute and was felt in Rome, about 70 miles from L'Aquila. Italy's National Geophysics Institute said the aftershock registered magnitude 4.9.
The strong aftershocks rattled residents -- nearly 18,000 are living in tent camps around the region. An additional 10,000 people have been put up in seaside hotels, out of the quake zone, and the Italian railway provided heated sleeping cars at L'Aquila's main train station, where nearly 700 people spent the night.
"It's not much, but without this I would be on the street," said Elena Ruggeri of the small train compartment with bunk beds she shares with three other people.
New activity was evident across the city, as pharmacies, groceries, butcher shops and hardware stores began operating, just days after the quake toppled entire city blocks.
Antonio Nardecchia opened his meat stall, selling roasted chicken and sausages just outside the ruins of L'Aquila's historic center. The 32-year-old vendor said business was slow.
"We opened up today to try to sell some meat before it spoils," Nardecchia said. "I don't see much of a future. It is not like everything is going to start again tomorrow."
A bakery in a one-story concrete block building was a testament to survival amid semi-collapsed houses.
Inside, Evelina Cruciani, 59, made sandwiches, giving them to aid workers or selling them.