More than 70 reported dead after strong earthquake rocks central Italy


A powerful earthquake reportedly killed more than 70 people and destroyed a cluster of small mountain villages in Central Italy early Wednesday, and the death toll was expected to rise as rescue workers were digging frantically through rubble.

Among the hardest hit towns was Amatrice, a village of 2,700 in the province of Rieti. Survivors painted a grim picture of devastation following the magnitude 6.2 temblor, which struck at 3:36 a.m. and was felt as far away as Rome.

“The town isn’t here anymore,” said Sergio Pirozzi, the mayor of Amatrice. “We came out to the piazza, and it looked like Dante’s Inferno,” said Agostino Severo, a Rome resident visiting Illica. “People crying for help, help. Rescue workers arrived after one hour… one and a half hours.”

Italy’s civil protection agency reported at least 73 people died. The agency was coordinating the rescue, which has involved hundreds of crews from across Italy and even the Vatican. Rescuers were setting up tents around the hard-hit areas to care for the thousands of people left homeless.

Complicating matters was that the area is a popular vacation spot in summer, with populations swelling, making the number of people in the area at the time difficult to estimate. Amatrice, birthplace of the famed spaghetti all’amatriciana bacon-tomato pasta sauce, was set to hold its 50th annual festival celebrating the dish this coming weekend..

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