Wiped off the map
Special report from centre of quake that’s claimed 120 lives
MORE than 200 people, including dozens of children, were last night feared dead after an “apocalyptic” earthquake shook central Italy.
The 6.2-magnitude quake struck at 3.36am and trapped hundreds of victims in their homes as they slept.
Rescuers heard children screaming as they tried to reach them through the rubble, while some survivors used their bare hands to hunt for missing relatives.
The disaster, with its epicentre close to the town of Norcia, flattened several nearby towns and villages – including Accumoli, Amatrice, Pescara del Tronto and Arquata del Tronto.
Last night the death toll stood at 120 with at least 368 injured and many more missing. Among the victims were several tourists visiting an annual pasta festival.
Pescara mayor Stefano Petrucci said: “All the houses have collapsed. I’ve never seen such an apocalyptic scene.
“We have a tragedy here. Buildings have collapsed, people are trapped under the rubble and there is no sound of life.”
Sergio Pirozzi, mayor of neighbouring Amatrice, said: “Our town isn’t here any more. Three quarters of it is gone.
“There are tens of victims, many of them still under the rubble. There are voices, we have to save the people there.”
The earthquake lasted 20 seconds and more than 80 aftershocks were felt across much of central Italy – including capital Rome, 85 miles to the south west.
It was so strong shockwaves were recorded in Croatia and the UK, where tremors hit four minutes afterwards.
Rescue efforts were hampered by the collapse of bridges, meaning emergency services had to get there on foot.
Blood-soaked survivors were photographed being carried out of their flattened homes on stretchers.
In the town of Accumoli, two brothers and their parents were killed when a church bell tower fell on their home.
Andrea Tuccio, his wife Graziella and their sons Ricardo, eight, and Stefano, seven months, were asleep.
Rescuers tried to reach them but they were declared dead at the scene.
Witness Emiliano Grillotti said: “You could hear the cries of the mother and one of the children.”
As an emergency worker carried away one of the bodies, the boys’ devastated grandmother said: “God took them all at once.”
Another family of four, including two children, were among those killed in Amatrice. Volunteer Angelo Maggi, 33, said: “They died in their beds. They were all sleeping in one room.”
A two-year-old girl died in hospital after being trapped under tonnes of rubble in the same town. Another toddler, Marisol Piermarini, 18 months old, was killed in her bed when the family home in Arquata was flattened. Her parents Massimiliano and Martina moved from L’Aquila after their previous home was destroyed in the 2009 earthquake that killed 300 people. The tot’s grandfather Massimo, who found the body, said: “Sadly, there was nothing to be done for the baby.” Another tragic youngster was named as seven-year-old Andrea Serafini. His aunt Maria Rita told local TV: “I saw him and CPR was died when 6.3 quake hit Italy’s Aquila region in 2009 useless.” Andrea’s twin brother Simone was fighting for his life in hospital.
Brothers Leone, six, and Samuele, four, had a miracle escape when their gran Vitaliana pushed them under their bed when the quake struck. She also survived but her husband Vito died.
Amatrice’s survivors huddled together next to bonfires in the town’s main square, desperately awaiting news on their loved ones.
Bodies were taken to a local school and the courtyard of a council building to be formally identified.
Among the missing are six refugees from Afghanistan, three nuns and four elderly guests at a boarding house.
Rescuers were also trying to locate an 11-year-old boy who sent a text message to his father saying he was trapped. Local resident Lisa Mercantini said: “The earthquake was so strong.
“It seemed the bed was walking across the room by itself with us on it.”
Marco Santina said: “It was a miracle for me to survive. Ten seconds were enough to destroy everything.”
Shaken patients at Amatrice’s Francesco Grifoni hospital recalled how they were told by staff to run for their lives.
Paola Mancini, 79, said she heard nurses in the corridors yelling, “get out, get out” after the first tremor hit.
She added: “It was a long shake. We were really scared, paralysed with terror. I heard everything around me crumble.
“The first ambulance arrived, a man on a stretcher was injured, covered by
blood and shocked. He was crying and kept saying, ‘My wife is dead because our house collapsed’.”
Londoner Eve Read was holidaying with her family in a rented cottage.
She said: “It was particularly frightening for the children. We all ended up huddling in the doorway.”
Luisa Fontanella, 68, a retired teacher, was on holiday with her husband, daughter and grandson.
Limping into the park in her nightie, she said: “It was a boom like I have never heard in all my 68 years.
“I was in the earthquake here in 1950 and my father saved me after a rafter fell on my bed and trapped me. I have always been traumatised by that.
“This time our stairs collapsed. We
All the houses collapsed.. it’s an apocalyptic scene.. people are trapped under rubble
were stuck in the house for an hour then rescue workers lifted us out. I was covered in dust.”
Zaida Beluli, who lived with her three sons and five grandchildren, was last night preparing to sleep rough in a park after their home was destroyed.
She said: “All we have is this blanket. We heard a huge rumble and left the house with the kids. It collapsed straight after.” She said her four-year-old grandson was terrified after seeing a dead infant removed from a house.
Bar owner Gianmarco di Carmine, 54, told how he heard a noise like a “bomb had gone off ”. He added: “I ran outside in my underpants. I ran to my mother’s house 100 metres away and got her out. She is so traumatised she doesn’t remember anything.”
Gianmarco lost his cousin Giuseppe Porro, 84, and his cousin’s daughter-inlaw, 45. He added: “Other relatives are still missing. I still can’t believe it is happening. It feels like a nightmare.
“We are used to earthquakes here, but not like this. I can no longer recognise my town.”
As well as the 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila, a tremor hit the northern Emilia Romagna region in May 2012, killing 23 and leaving 14,000 homeless. STEFANO PETRUCCI PESCARA DEL TRONTO MAYOR YESTERDAY
RUINS Buildings reduced to rubble in Pescara del Tronto yesterday SHOCKED Horrified locals survey the devastation in Amatrice CARNAGE Bird’s eye view of damage in Amatrice
BLOODIED Wounded nun in devastated town of Amatrice
MIRACLE ESCAPE Man is freed from rubble yesterday