At least 73 people killed in Italian strong earthquake

At least 73 people killed in Italian strong earthquake

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Amatrice (AP/UNB) — A strong earthquake rocked central Italy early Wednesday, collapsing homes on top of residents as they slept. At least 73 people were reported dead in two hard-hit towns where rescue crews raced to dig out survivors from the rubble, but the toll was expected to rise as crews reached homes in harder-to-reach hamlets.
“The town isn’t here anymore,” Amatrice mayor Sergio Pirozzi said.
The magnitude 6 quake struck at 3:36 a.m. (0136 GMT) and was felt across a broad swath of central Italy, including the capital Rome where residents felt a long swaying followed by aftershocks. The temblor was felt from the Lazio region into Umbria and Le Marche on the Adriatic coast.The hardest-hit towns were Amatrice and Accumoli near Rieti, some 100 kilometers (80 miles) northeast of Rome, where the air was thick with dust and smelled strongly of gas. The center of Amatrice was devastated, with entire palazzos razed. Rocks and metal tumbled onto the streets and dazed residents huddled in piazzas as some 39 aftershocks continued into the early morning hours, some as strong as 5.1.
“The whole ceiling fell but did not hit me,” marveled resident Maria Gianni. “I just managed to put a pillow on my head and I wasn’t hit luckily, just slightly injured my leg.”
Another woman, sitting in front of her destroyed home with a blanket over her shoulders, said she didn’t know what had come of her loved ones.
“It was one of the most beautiful towns of Italy and now there’s nothing left,” she said, too distraught to give her name. “I don’t know what we’ll do.”
As daylight dawned, residents, civil protection workers and even priests began digging out with shovels, bulldozers and their bare hands, trying to reach survivors. There was relief as a woman was pulled out alive from one building, followed by a dog.
“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. Italy’s national blood drive association appealed for donations to Rieti’s hospital.
The devastation harked back to the 2009 quake that killed more than 300 people in and around L’Aquila, which sent emergency teams Wednesday to help with the rescue.
“I don’t know what to say. We are living this immense tragedy,” said the Rev. Savino D’Amelio, an Amatrice parish priest. “We are only hoping there will be the least number of victims possible and that we all have the courage to move on.”
The Italian geological service put the magnitude at 6.0; the U.S. Geological Survey reported 6.2 with the epicenter at Norcia, about 170 kilometers (105 miles) northeast of Rome, and with a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometers (6 miles).

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