At least 120 people died and hundreds more are missing after the strongest earthquake in years hit central Italy on Wednesday.
Rescue workers were going through the rubble to find survivors in a series of towns and villages near Amatrice, around 150 kilometers northeast of Rome. There were multiple reports of voices of survivors coming from deep under the rubble, but because of the remoteness of the area, officials often lacked the heavy equipment to remove the biggest stones.
The quake and its aftershocks toppled ancient buildings and left homes in rubble.
Roads and other infrastructure were damaged, often severely.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent “condolences to the people of Italy” and offered search and rescue assistance to Italian Prime Minister Mateo Renzi.
President Reuven Rivlin also sent a letter of condolence, saying that “our thoughts are with you and the people of Italy at this very difficult time as you seek to help the injured, give shelter to those made homeless, and plan the reconstruction. Please convey our sincere condolences to the families of the victims, our best wishes for a speedy recovery to the injured, and our hopes that the region will soon experience a happier future.”
Fabrizio Curcio, head of Italy’s Civil Protection Agency, said the quake, which measured 6.2 on the Richter scale, was about on par with the 2009 quake that killed 300 and left 70,000 homeless in L’Aquila, east of Rome.
It was powerful enough to be felt in Bologna to the north and Naples to the south, each more than 220 km.
from the epicenter.
“I was blown away by what I saw.
We haven’t stopped digging all day,” said Marcello di Marco, 34, a farmer who traveled from the town of Narni some 100 km. away to help out in the hamlet of Pescara del Tronto.
In the nearby village of Accumoli, a family of four, including two boys aged 8 months and 9 years, were buried when their house imploded.
As rescue workers carried away the body of the infant, carefully covered by a small blanket, the children’s grandmother blamed God: “He took them all at once,” she wailed.
The army was mobilized to help with special heavy equipment, and the treasury released €235 million in emergency funds. At the Vatican, Pope Francis dispatched part of the Holy See’s tiny fire-fighting force to help in the rescue.
Rescue workers used helicopters to pluck trapped survivors to safety in more isolated villages cut off by landslides and rubble.
Aerial photographs showed whole areas of Amatrice, last year voted one of Italy’s most beautiful historic towns, flattened by the 6.2 magnitude quake. Many of those killed or missing were visitors.
“It’s all young people here; it’s holiday season. The town festival was to have been held the day after tomorrow, so lots of people came for that,” said Amatrice resident Giancarlo, sitting in the road wearing just his underwear.
Patients at the badly damaged hospital in Amatrice were moved into the streets, as a field hospital was set up.
“Three quarters of the town is not there anymore,” said Amatrice Mayor Sergio Pirozzi. “The aim now is to save as many lives as possible. There are voices under the rubble; we have to save the people there.”
Residents responding to wails muffled by tons of bricks and mortar sifted through with their bare hands before emergency services arrived with earthmoving equipment and sniffer dogs. Wide cracks had appeared like open wounds on the buildings that were still standing.
Renzi visited the disaster area. Before leaving Rome, he promised: “No one will be left alone – no family, no community, no neighborhood. We must get down to work... to restore hope to this area which has been so badly hit.”
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.
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