Tears and devastation of the stricken vil­lages


THE am­bu­lance­man said gen­tly: “She’s dead but there are no more body bags so we just have to wait.”

The woman died in her bed, crushed by fall­ing ma­sonry.

Here in the tiny ham­let of Sant’An­gelo help had fi­nally ar­rived. But when res­cue crews reached her through the rub­ble, it was too late for this one vil­lager.

Rel­a­tives and friends gath­ered in tears as they watched her body gen­tly lifted into the am­bu­lance. One scur­ried away, search­ing for a driv­ing li­cence to con­firm her iden­tity for the au­thor­i­ties.

The church across the road was only fin­ished a week ago af­ter years of ren­o­va­tion. There was a huge mu­ral of Je­sus on the wall. His head and shoul­ders are now miss­ing.

Just down the val­ley in the small town of Ama­trice was a scene of sheer ut­ter devastation. Build­ing af­ter build­ing com­pletely flat­tened.

Houses, many of them cen­turies old – stone build­ings that had sur­vived hun­dreds of quakes – col­lapsed into rub­ble.

They are used to quakes in this part of Italy but this one was dev­as­tat­ing to dozens of re­mote vil­lages just a two-hour drive from Rome.

Just out­side the earth­quake zone tourist spots, res­tau­rants and bars were all op­er­at­ing nor­mally. It was sur­real.

We passed 32 am­bu­lances fer­ry­ing the in­jured to hos­pi­tals in big­ger towns. It was the only clue to the dis­as­ter which had hap­pened so near by.

GEN­TLY A Sant’An­gelo vil­lager’s body is lifted into an am­bu­lance

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