Central Italy was struck by a powerful earthquake early Wednesday morning, collapsing buildings and killing at least 38 people, including an entire family of four.
The center of the magnitude 6.2 quake was at the towns of Amatrice and Accumoli near Rieti, some 100 kilometers (80 miles) northeast of Rome, but the shake was felt in other parts of Italy.
Some 60 aftershocks continued to shake the country, some as strong as 5.1.
“The town isn’t here anymore,” Amatrice mayor Sergio Pirozzi said.
The center of the town was devastated, with entire areas razed to the ground.
“The whole ceiling fell, but did not hit me,” said resident Maria Gianni. “I just managed to put a pillow on my head and I wasn’t hit luckily, just slightly injured my leg.”
Emergency services and locals worked quickly to rescue survivors from the ruble. A collapsed bridge in the area has hindered the rescue efforts.
“I don’t know what to say. We are living this immense tragedy,” said the Rev. Savino D’Amelio, an Amatrice parish priest. “We are only hoping there will be the least number of victims possible and that we all have the courage to move on.”
In 2009, a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck in the same area and killed more than 300 people.
A 1997 tremor killed a dozen people in the area and severely damaged the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, one of the jewels of Umbria filled with Giotto frescoes.
The worst quake in recent memory hit Italy in 1908, generating a Tsunami wave that killed 80,000 people.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conveyed his condolences to Italy and offered Israel’s search and rescue assistance to Italian Prime Minister Mateo Renzi.
By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News
AP contributed to this report.