The earthquake struck Norcia, 76 km (47 miles) southeast of Perugia, the capital of the province of Umbria, at 3:36 a.m. on August 24 (local time). CNN reported that the death toll rose to 252, and BBC said the death toll reached 247. Many towns and villages were almost completely destroyed. It is not even possible to estimate how many people are buried under the rubble of collapsed buildings. They were fully exposed to the strong shocks from the earthquake because the epicenter was only 10 km (6 miles) below the earth’s surface. The shaking was strong enough to be felt in Rome, which is about 100 kilometers (62 miles) away from the epicenter.
Severe damage has been reported in the villages of Amatrice, Accumoli, and Pescara del Tronto. These regions are especially famous for a number of medieval Catholic cathedrals and relics. Many of them were damaged or destroyed during the earthquake. According to a report from Newsis, half the facade of the 15th-century church of Sant’Agostino in Amatrice collapsed, and Renaissance palaces werereduced to a pile of rubble. In Norcia, the 12th-century basilica built on the foundations of St. Benedict’s house was damaged, and the 14th-century frescoes in the church of St. Augustine were also destroyed.
It is reported that these three regions have been most severely damaged because they are located in a mountainous area. BBC reports that the towns have been “completely razed.” Especially a series of strong aftershocks followed the main quake, which demolished already cracked buildings. CNN said that the earthquake-stricken villages had turned into “ghost towns.” Amatrice Mayor Sergio Pirozzi said despairingly, “The town isn’t here anymore.” Amatrice has attracted many tourists for its beautiful scenery, particularly during the summer season.
Rescue teams are searching for survivors day and night. According to international media reports, they are fighting against time to rescue survivors without leaving the scene, despite hundreds of aftershocks that are still occurring. More than 5,000 rescue workers are combing through piles of rubble for survivors using heavy machinery. They are also removing wreckage with their bare hands to minimize the risk of injuring anyone buried under the rubble.
Many children are reported to be among the victims, which makes the situation that much more sorrowful. Some observers say the death toll is likely to rise.