The people of central Italy awakened to discover that a 6.2-magnitude earthquake had killed 247 people overnight, according to Italy’s Civil Protection Department. The temblor occurred 6.2 miles southeast of Norcia at 3:36 a.m. local time, as reported by CNN.
Tremors awakened residents as far away as Rome, 100 miles southwest of the epicenter. An estimated 200 aftershocks occurred over the next several hours.
Four area camps were set up following the quake, housing more than 1,000 people, according to Immacolata Postiglione, head of the Civil Protection Department’s emergency unit.
Historic Amatrice lost all of its historic buildings, some dating to the Middle Ages, according to Mayor Sergio Pirozzi.
Pope Francis adjusted his schedule that morning to lead the pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square in prayer for the victims.
“I cannot fail to express my heartfelt sorrow and spiritual closeness to all those present in the zones afflicted,” he said in remarks released by the Vatican. “I also express my condolences to those who have lost loved ones, and my spiritual support to those who are anxious and afraid.
“Hearing the mayor of Amatrice say that the town no longer exists, and learning that there are children among the dead, I am deeply saddened.”
Rescue teams used heavy lifting equipment and their bare hands to recover victims.
The U.S.-based non-profit Shelter Box dispatched assessment teams to Italy to provide help. Team Leader Phil Duloy reported that Italian authorities had “efficiently met shelter, medical and other needs.” He credited the epicenter’s proximity to Rome and the preponderance of mountain vacation homes being empty for reducing the death toll.
“Farming and agri-tourism are the lifeblood of this area, and many of the farms and homesteads are isolated and inaccessible,” Duloy said. “Farmers’ houses may have been damaged or destroyed, yet cattle still have to be attended and harvests gathered in.
“We are urgently constructing a plan with the Italian authorities that we hope will allow us to aid farmers in recovering from this week’s awful events.”
Shelter Box assembles emergency survival kits with water purification devices and tents for disaster victims.
Pray for the long-term recovery in central Italy as communities and families labor to restore their life.