UPDATE--August 25th, 2016: Although Amatrice's 13th century campanile tower is still standing, it's bell was knocked loose and its clock is stuck at 3:39, the time of the quake. Aftershocks have sent stones falling from the tower as late as Thursday--the danger is still very real.
Over 250 people died and hundreds more were injured, with many more still trapped in the collapsed buildings. One hotel in Amatrice had over 70 people staying there--the hotel had completely collapsed. Aside from Amatrice, three other towns were also seriously affected... Accumoli, Pescara del Tronto and Arquata del Tronto. There are also dozens of hamlets in the area--small clusters of houses which are usually incorporated into nearby larger communes--that have yet to be reached by rescuers. Aftershocks are still occurring in the affected areas, hampering rescue teams. One CNN reporter was streaming live on Facebook when suddenly the house immediately behind her collapsed.
Many residents that survived are telling frightening tales of crawling out of their crumbled homes through dust, rocks and broken furnishings. Many were thrust into the night wearing only pajamas coated with foul smelling dust... replaced with clean clothes by their neighbors other volunteer rescuers. People have "lost everything", including family members, friends and neighbors. Although the elderly have spent nights in emergency tents, others are forced to stay out in the open. The temperatures in this mountainous region tend to get very cold in the evenings.
As aerial photography shows, in some towns the more serious damage occurred to historic centers of towns where buildings are from 400 to 600 or more years old. In newer built areas, damage was not as severe. In the past, towns like these struck by severe earthquakes have become ghost towns, with the populations moved to new-built towns near their original location. Italy does not have a successful record of rebuilding after such earthquakes. Their economy can't afford it. Former residents fear rebuilding and moving back to their homes which sit right on top of obviously active geological faults. About 8,300 people who were forced to leave their houses after a deadly earthquake in L'Aquila in 2009 are still living in temporary accommodation. When we visited Italy we passed through several "ghost towns" that have been abandoned after having gone through such quakes. The people still own their properties, and might still spend time there tending their gardens, olive and nut trees, but at night go elsewhere to sleep.
This quake was felt in a wide area of central Italy... some in Rome reported being terrified as their hotel rooms shook for as long as 30 seconds.
August 24th, 2016 -- "A 6.2-magnitude earthquake hit central Italy on Wednesday and was felt in Rome some 150 km (90 miles) away", the United States Geological Survey and AFP journalists said.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) reported that an earthquake occurred 10 kilometres (six miles) southeast of Norcia, 75 km (47 miles) southeast of Perugia and 45 km (28 mi) north of L'Aquila, in an area bordering the Umbria, Lazio, and Marche regions.
At the time I'm writing this, around 10:30 am, Eastern Time in the U.S., it's been reported by Italian civil protection authorities that 73 people have been killed in the earthquake. Aerial photos of villages in the region show large proportions of hilltop villages have crumbled with many people missing under the rubble. Sadly, the numbers of dead are expected to rise dramatically.
In Amatrice, one hard hit town, there were a larger number of people in town preparing for their annual Pasta Amatriciana Festival this coming weekend. Officials fear more injuries and deaths because of the larger than normal number of people in the town at the time. The additional fact that the quake hit during the middle of the night makes matters even worse.
Amatrice's mayor, Sergio Perozzi was heard on RAI radio saying, "The roads in and out of town are cut off. Half the town is gone. There are people under the rubble... There's been a landslide and a bridge might collapse." He then added, “The town isn’t here anymore.”
Italy's Civil Protection agency described the earthquake as "severe". Teams from the Italian state police have come into the affected area to prevent looting.
Earlier Italy’s forestry police told AP that they had extracted dozens of people alive from the rubble in the town of Pescara del Tronto. News footage from the hill town showed rescue workers being winched from a helicopter. But there have also been reports of scores dead in the towns of Accumoli and Pescara del Tronto.
We can only hope and pray that our Italian cousins get through this natural disaster... with the help of all of us, I believe they can and will...
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