Morning top 5: Italy quake death toll climbs; USC alternatives; and Donegal search continues

The top stories this Thursday morning

Rescue crews have been working through the night to dig out survivors from an earthquake that's left three central Italian towns in ruins.

The country's Civil Protection Agency says at least 247 people have died.

More than 350 are injured.

Emergency teams have been using bulldozers and their bare hands to find many still thought to be buried under the rubble.


The Government has been warned it may have to increase property tax by 600% if it decides to scrap USC.

The Department of Finance has been looking at ways to plug the gap in the tax take if it gets rid of the Universal Social Charge as promised.

The department's brief, released under the freedom of information act, also contains a warning that the price of petrol, diesel or alcohol could go up, with an extra €1.50 in excise duty on every pint.


Two Olympic Council of Ireland officials are due to present themselves to a police station in Rio to answer questions about the tickets controversy.

Back home, a non-statutory inquiry is now underway and it is hoped it will be completed within 12 weeks.

Last Sunday, the passports of OCI officials Dermot Henihan, Kevin Kilty and Stephen Martin were seized by police in Rio as part of their investigation.

None of the men were arrested and none of them are accused of any wrongdoing.


Colombia's government and the country's biggest rebel group have announced a deal to end one of the world's longest-running armed conflicts.

The agreement stops over 50 years of violence that has claimed more than 220-thousand lives and driven five million people from their homes.

The deal with the FARC group must still be ratified by voters.


A major search will resume this morning for a man missing off the coast of Donegal.

The 28 year old man - who is a member of the Defence Forces - got into difficulty while swimming in the sea off Tullan Strand, near Bundoran on Tuesday.

Those involved in the search include the Malin Head Coastguard, 120 members of the Defence Forces, the Bundoran RNLI, Killybegs rescue boat and the Coast Guard helicopter based in Sligo.