A magnitude 6.2 earthquake has struck central Italy, leaving at least 268 people dead and nearly 400 injured.
Many of the dead were in the village of Pescara del Tronto which was levelled to the ground and much of the town of Amatrice was reduced to rubble. The quake hit at 03:36 (01:36 GMT), 100km (65 miles) north-east of Rome and just 85km (50 miles) away from Castlefidardo, the centre of the Italian accordion world.
The earthquake struck at a shallow depth of 10km and its intensity has been compared to the Aquila earthquake in April 2009 in which 309 people died. Our contact, Donatello, at one of the accordion factories in Castlefidardo told us “It’s a tragedy! We were very lucky as there has been no damage here although everything shook quite a lot. I think it lasted 20 to 30 seconds and I am told it was felt from Bologna in the north to Naples in the south”.
Italy’s Civil Protection agency described the earthquake as “severe”.
“It was so strong. It seemed the bed was walking across the room by itself with us on it,” Lina Mercantini of Ceselli, Umbria, told Reuters.
The Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, says he is going to the affected area this afternoon and has praised the generosity of the volunteers and all those who started working in the middle of the night. He went on to say “I would like to thank everyone on the part of the government, those who have dug with their bare hands, those who have dealt with communications, I would like to thank all those who have shown how important voluntary work and civil protection is….We must be equipped for the emergency of the next few hours, days and weeks.”
Silvana Hembry who is visiting her mother in Castelfidardo is quoted by the BBC as saying “The bed started to almost jump up and down from one side of the room to another, light fixtures swinging from side to side. I got up and fell down immediately. We’re about 80km east from the worst hit areas so there is not much damage here but it felt very strong. My mother is 90 and she woke up screaming and scared”.
International disaster relief agency ShelterBox, based in the UK is sending a team to the disaster area within 24 hours, the charity says in a statement: “If emergency or temporary shelter is needed for families and individuals made homeless in the disaster, ShelterBox has adequate supplies of tents and other equipment standing by in the UK and at other sites across Europe.”