Deadly earthquake rocks central Italy; at least 120 dead and toll expected to rise
At least 120 people have died after a powerful earthquake struck a remote area of central Italy on Wednesday, said Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, warning that the figure could still rise.
Many people are missing and rescuers desperately digging through the rubble to free survivors.
An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.2 has destroyed buildings and homes in the mountains of central Italy, trapping residents in their homes as they were sleeping in the early hours of Wednesday (24 August). At least 120 people have been reported dead. Two towns were hit particularly hard by the tremors.
Towns across three regions — Umbria, Lazio and Marche — were devastated by the quake, which could be felt as far away as Bologna in the north and Naples in the south. 53 people were killed in two towns, Amatrice and Accumoli, both in Lazio, and 20 others in Marche, where the village of Arquata del Tronto and the hamlet of Pescara del Tronto suffered severe damage.
Hundreds of people have been injured and thousands of people need temporary housing, Italy’s civil protection agency said.
Survivors have described ‘apocalyptic’ scenes in towns and villages near the city of Perugia – the capital of the tourist-packed Umbrian region, which is especially popular with British holidaymakers.
The center of Amatrice was devastated, with entire palazzos razed to the ground. Aerial images from the fire department showed whole streets flattened.
The mayor of Amatrice near Rieti, Sergio Perozzi, told state-run RAI Radio 1 that there were downed buildings in the town centre and that the lights had gone out. He said he was unable to get in touch with emergency responders or reach the hospital.
“What can I tell you? It’s a tragedy,” he said. “Half the town is gone. There are people under the rubble… There’s been a landslide and a bridge might collapse.”
According to Lazio’s authorities, 69 of those hurt in the earthquake were moved to Rome’s hospitals. Nineteen who were in a serious condition were transported by helicopter
The shallow quake, estimated to have struck after 3:30am at a depth of six miles, was felt across a broad section of central Italy, including the capital Rome where people in homes in the historic centre felt a long swaying followed by aftershocks.
The total number of deaths and injuries will not become clear until later on; many people are still trapped in collapsed buildings. Rescue workers and emergency services are working to help residents but in some of the affected towns, access roads are blocked by the rubble.
Italian ministry promises €234 million for the earthquake relief effort. “The fund for national emergencies has made €234 million available, which will be used to meet immediate needs,” read a note from Paola De Micheli, undersecretary for Italy’s Ministry of Economy and Finance.
Matteo Renzi, the Italian Prime Minister, has thanked rescue workers in central Italy for their efforts in recovering dozens of people from rubble caused by a massive earthquake in the region.
“At moments of trouble Italy knows how to cope. No family, no city, no hamlet will be left alone,” he said.
Pope Francis called for prayers for those affected by the disaster while Italian President Sergio Mattarella said “the entire country should rally with solidarity around the affected populations.”
Several European and foreign leaders have offered their solidarity with Italy, including Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s FrancoisHollande and the Netherlands’ Mark Rutte.