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Earthquake in central Italy, everything you need to know

A powerful earthquake in central Italy, the strongest tremor of magnitude 6, has caused widespread damage and victims. The most devastated localities are Accumoli, Amatrice and Arquata del Tronto.

Earthquake in central Italy, the events

Over 600 tremors have been felt in central Italy since the early hours of the 24th of August. The strongest of which, of magnitude 6, took place at 03.36 on the 24th of August. Felt from Rimini in the northeast, all the way to Naples in the southwest, it’s epicentre was four kilometres deep and only two kilometres from Accumoli and Amatrice, small towns in central Italy in the province of Rieti, and ten kilometres from Arquata del Tronto, in the province of Ascoli Piceno.

Accumoli, Amatrice and Pescara del Tronto, a fraction of Arquata, are the most heavily damaged localities. The small medieval towns have been reduced to rubble and the number of deaths has reached 267, with hundreds injured and still missing. As rescue operations continue (involving around 5,500 people including volunteers and members of the country’s civil defence service), the death toll is likely to rise.

After the magnitude 6 tremor many have followed since, the successive ones taking place between 04.32 and 04.34 with epicentre near Norcia, in the province of Perugia and Arquata del Tronto. These were also felt all over central Italy, prompting people to go out onto the streets, including in l’Aquila, a city in the Abruzzo region that was razed to the ground by an earthquake in 2009, which caused 309 victims and the demolition of 23,000 buildings.

The quake continued throughout the course of the day. A little before 14.00 a 4.9 magnitude tremor was felt in Arquata, raising the alarm amongst those displaced from their homes in the first aid camp set up in a sport field. Furthermore, in the first hours of the 25th of August another 60 shakes were felt, forcing rescue workers to suspend operations for fear of the collapse of other buildings. Another tremor of magnitude 4.5 took place in the area of Amatrice at 14.36, causing further collapses.

Temporary shelter in the form of tents has been set up in Amatrice, Accumoli and Pescara del Tronto. All hospitals in the Lazio and Marche regions (in which the most affected towns are located) are treating hundreds of wounded. Today the Italian government will release the first tranche of emergency funds, 50 million euros.

pescara del tronto italy earthquake
Pescara del Tronto destroyed © Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

Rescue efforts

Rescue workers with the aid of sniffer dogs continue to dig in search of those missing as well as survivors, whilst the number of people displaced continues to grow, reaching the thousands. As well as emergency numbers activated by the civil defence service, and a number for citizens to make donations, Facebook has triggered the Safety Check function, which allows people to let their contacts know that they’re safe.

Avis, a national organisation for blood donations, has asked people of all blood types to donate by visiting the San Camillo de Lellis Hospital in Rieti or other centres in the region, especially hospitals in Rome. Those wishing to donate in the Marche region should instead go to San Benedetto del Tronto, in the province of Ascoli Piceno.

“We commit to not abandoning anyone, not a single family,” these the words of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi who visited the affected areas. He also thanked “the large and generous heart of volunteers who have been at work since the first hours and the civil defence service”.

The extent of the damages

It’s dramatic, half the town isn’t there anymore,” these the words of the mayor of Amatrice Sergio Pirozzi on the morning of the 24th of August. Those injured are treated in the street in front of the hospital, which has been rendered inaccessible. The mayor also described how “access roads are blocked“. A bridge at the entrance to the town has collapsed, forcing people to enter it on foot. This has slowed rescue efforts according to a local Red Cross worker, reports Italian newspaper la Repubblica.

The entrance to Pescara del Tronto has also been rendered difficult. “People are crying whilst they walk and make their way into town”, a reporter of Italian news agency Ansa described. In Castelluccio di Norcia, in the province of Perugia, a bell tower collapsed and in Amandola, in the province of Fermo, the hospital has been heavily damaged. Furthermore, a landslide was reported on the eastern face of the Corno Piccolo sul Gran Sasso mountain.

The gravity

The head of the civil defence department, Fabrizio Curcio, defined the earthquake “comparable, for its intensity, to the one in l’Aquila, even though the scenario is different”. “We can’t conclude that the earthquake will end here or that it won’t continue in a different form,” according to Andrea Tertulliani, seismologist at the National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology because, “a magnitude 6 earthquake brings with it a tail of repeat events that will certainly be numerous”.

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