A powerful earthquake that struck in the early hours on Wednesday devastated a string of mountainous towns in central Italy, trapping residents under piles of rubble, killing at least 73 people and leaving thousands homeless.
Most residents were asleep when the earth suddenly started to shake violently, razing homes and buckling roads in a cluster of communities about 85 miles east of Rome.
The earthquake caused damage in three regions ― Umbria, Lazio and Marche ― and was felt as far away as the southern Italian port city of Naples.
A hospital in Amatrice was among the buildings that were badly damaged, and patients were moved into the streets. Photographs posted on social media showed whole areas flattened by the 6.2 magnitude quake.
“Three-quarters of the town is not there anymore,” Amatrice mayor Sergio Pirozzi told reporters. “The goal now is to save as many lives as possible. There are voices under the rubble, we have to save the people there.”
A family of four, including two boys aged 8 months and 9 years, were buried when their house in Accumoli 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.