At least 247 people have been killed, 368 injured and more than a thousand displaced after a 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck Central Italy, this according to Italy’s Civil Protection Department.
The quake hit on Wednesday morning at 04.30am (EAT) bringing down several buildings in the city’s towns killing people instantly and trapping scores beneath the rubble.
As at yesterday, the hardest hit areas were the small towns of Amatrice and Accumoli where majority of the residents were still trapped beneath the rubble.
Italy’s Civil Protection agency said of the people killed in the quake, at least 53 of them were in the town of Amatrice, and at least 100 people were injured. 190 deaths have been reported in Rieti province and 57 in neighbouring Ascoli Piceno province. Other fatalities were reported in the nearby towns of Accumoli and Arquata del Tronto.
Majority of the victims were children, said Beatrice Lorenzin, Italy’s health minister. She also warned that there were signs of the death toll rising further.
Among the victims was an 18-month-old toddler, Marisol Piermarini, whose mother Martina Turco survived the deadly 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila and moved away from there after the experience, Italian news agency Ansa reported.
Ms Turco was being treated in hospital after being pulled from the rubble in the village of Arquata del Tronto, Ansa said.
Late on Wednesday there were cheers in the village of Pescara del Tronto when a young girl was pulled alive from the rubble after being trapped for 17 hours. Almost all the houses there had collapsed, the mayor of the town said.
Many people are still believed to be buried under rubble and more than 4,300 rescuers are using heavy lifting equipment and bare hands to find them.
Other hardest hit areas were the small towns and villages in the mountainous area where the regions of Umbria, Lazio and Le Marche meet.
People there spent the night outside or in tents provided by the emergency services.
A spokeswoman for the Italian Red Cross told the BBC that the area had been shaken by aftershocks.
The mayor of the historic town of Amatrice, Sergio Pirozzi said three-quarters of the town had been destroyed and no building was safe for habitation.
After seeing the scale of the damage residents who once described Amatrice as one of the most beautiful towns in Italy said “it was completely gone”
Many of those affected were on holiday in the region. Some were in Amatrice for a festival to celebrate a famous local speciality – amatriciana bacon and tomato sauce.
Leaders from around the world sent messages of condolences and offered medical aid to show their solidarity with Italy.
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.”
“At the moment we need to employ all our forces to save human lives, treat the injured and ensure the best conditions for the people displaced,” he said In an address to the nation
“In difficult times, Italy knows what to do” he added.
President Barack Obama called Mattarella on Wednesday to offer US assistance. The leaders of France, Germany and Russia all expressed their sympathy over the disaster.
The country is no stranger to earthquakes: the 2009 L’Aquila tremor killed more than 300 people and in May 2012 two tremors nine days apart killed more than 20 people in the northern Emilia Romagna region
Additional reporting by BBC
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