"It was one of the most
beautiful towns of Italy and now there's nothing left," said one
resident, too distraught to give her name. "I don't know what we'll do."
At least 247 people are dead and hundreds injured after a strong
earthquake rocked central Italy Wednesday. Officials say the death toll
is expected to rise as the towns dig out from the rubble. (Photo: AP/via BBC News)
The magnitude 6.0 quake hit especially hard
in the tourist-filled towns of Amatrice and Accumoli. During the summer,
vacationers seek out the region to escape the heat of Rome and other
Rescuers are using shovels, bulldozers and
even their bare hands to dig out victims. For those that made it out,
there are stories of miracles.
"The whole ceiling fell but did not hit me. I
just managed to put a pillow on my head and I wasn't hit," Maria Gianni
The latest quake is already being compared to
one in 2009 that killed more than 300 people and struck just 50 miles
to the south.
In Rome today, the pope skipped his normal
catechism lesson and led pilgrims in prayer for the earthquake's
Meanwhile, rescuers are hoping to find as
many survivors as possible and struggling to make sense of what
"We are living through this immense tragedy. I
really don't know what to say. We are living through this tragedy and
we are only hoping there will be the fewest number of victims possible
and that we all have the courage to move on," Rev. Savino D'Amelio, a
priest in Amatrice said.
It is likely that the death toll will rise as
crews reach homes in remote hamlets. In Amatrice entire blocks of
buildings were razed and the air remains clouded with thick dust and
"The town isn't here anymore," said Sergio Pirozzi, the mayor of the Amatrice. "I believe the toll will rise." (Photo: Before and after/Google/AFP/via BBC News)
[See more photos from BBC News by clicking here]
The town, roughly made of 69 hamlets, was
jolted by 40 aftershocks in the early morning hours. Residents sought
shelter in piazzas as rock and metal tumbled into the streets.
"It was one of the most beautiful towns of
Italy and now there's nothing left," said one resident, too distraught
to give her name. "I don't know what we'll do."
Germany, France and Israel have already
volunteered to help Italy with rescue and recovery efforts. That could
mean a great deal in a region that has literally changed overnight.
"We need chain saws, shears to cut iron bars,
and jacks to remove beams: everything, we need everything," civil
protection worker Andrea Gentili told the Associated Press.
A geologist in Poland says slow but constant
under-surface movement of the African Plate toward Europe caused the
quake. Jerzy Zaba of Silesian University says a wedge-shaped front of
the plate is pressing into the Eurasian Plate and pushing into regions