Devastating quake hits Italy, killing at least 38
A POWERFUL earthquake of magnitude 6.2 struck the three central regions of Italy yesterday morning, killing at least 38 people and shaking many buildings in Rome, located some 100km south-west of the epicentre, for about 20 seconds.
The first quake at 3.36am local time threw thousands of people in the three central regions of Lazio, Umbria and Marche off their beds, reported Italy's La Repubblica newspaper.
The death toll continued to climb yesterday morning as rescuers searched for survivors and bodies amid the debris in the regions' pulverised towns, Bloomberg reported.
Relief efforts were hampered by more than 15 aftershocks of up to 5.4 magnitude.
The pan-European Sky Television showed images of collapsed buildings throughout the town of Amatrice, a historical centre with a population of about 2,500 which was almost flattened by the quake.
"Everything collapsed, there was just dust, and now there's nothing there," said Silvia, a young woman in the town of Amatrice in Lazio, whose capital is Rome.
"The town is gone. There are voices under the rubble, we have to save those people," said Sergio Pirozzi, the mayor of Amatrice.
Stefano Petrucci, the mayor of Accumoli, another hard-hit town in Lazio, told Italy's RAI television that at least four people - a family with two children - were trapped under rubble there.
The epicentre was near Accumoli and hit at a depth of about 10km.
The central regions of Italy are sparsely inhabited as most people have moved to Rome, reported Spain's RTVE broadcasting service.
However, during the summer, many had returned to the homes of their parents for the holidays, which explained the high death toll, added the station.
A resident told RTVE that the houses in the regions were old and not built with anti-seismic considerations.
Italy is located between the African and Eurasian continental plates and this makes it one of the most seismically active areas in Europe.
An earthquake in 2009 killed more than 300 people near the mediaeval city of L'Aquila, about 113km south-east of Amatrice.
Those tremors, the country's deadliest in almost three decades, caused billions of euros in damage.