At least 73 people are dead after a 6.0 magnitude earthquake devastated a string of small towns in central Italy early Wednesday.
The quake struck towns and villages in the mountainous heart of the country, including the Lazio region. The town of Amatrice, about 140km east of Rome, was one of the worst hit. Officials expect the death toll to rise as crews work to reach homes in more remote hamlets. Amatrice itself is made up of 69 hamlets.
Dramatic photos from affected towns show residents digging their neighbours out by hand and entire piazzas reduced to rubble.
The Associated Press reported a geologist in Poland said the earthquake was likely caused by the slow but constant under-surface movement of the African Plate toward Europe.
Jerzy Zaba of the Silesian University in Katowice, in southern Poland, said that a wedge-shaped front of the African Plate is pressing into the Eurasian Plate in the Adriatic Sea region and pushes into the neighbouring regions, like Italy’s Apennine Mountains.
The tension that accumulates leads to a sudden release in the form of under-surface rock movement that causes earth tremors.
The Italian civil protection agency is coordinating rescue efforts, which involve hundreds of crews from across the country and even the Vatican. Personnel are setting up tent cities around the hard hit cities to care for the thousands of people left homeless by the quake.
The Vatican’s press office said a six-man team from its fire squad has gone to help in Amatrice. A statement said the decision was taken as a “sign of the pope’s concrete proximity to the people affected by the quake.”
Meanwhile European leaders are offering their support and resources should Italian officials deem them necessary.
Nicole Bogart – Global News