ACCUMOLI, Italy, Aug 24, (Agencies): A powerful earthquake devastated a string of mountain towns in central Italy on Wednesday, trapping residents under rubble, killing at least 120 people and leaving thousands homeless. The quake struck in the early hours of the morning when most residents were asleep, razing homes and buckling roads in a cluster of communities some 140 kms (85 miles) east of Rome. It was powerful enough to be felt in Bologna to the north and Naples to the south, each more than 220 kms from the epicentre. His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah sent Wednesday a cable of condolences to President of Italy Sergio Mattarella over deaths resulting from the earthquake.
In the cable, His Highness the Amir expressed Kuwait’s solidarity with Italy over the quake. His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah sent similar cables.
Meanwhile, no Kuwaiti nationals were affected by the magnitude-six earthquake. The embassy said in a statement obtained by KUNA that the embassy was continuing to monitor the situation, affirming that it had yet to receive any information regarding Kuwaitis amongst the victims of the quake.
The embassy said that hotlines were established to answer Kuwaiti citizens inquires and emergency calls. The hotlines are 00393294966232, 00393662108903, and 0039388909466. The consulate in Milan also offered an emergency number for Kuwaiti citizens.
The number is 00393317207743. A family of four, including two boys aged 8 months and 9 years, were buried when their house in Accumoli imploded. As rescue workers carried away the body of the infant, carefully covered by a small blanket, the children’s grandmother blamed God: “He took them all at once,” she wailed. The army was mobilised to help with special heavy equipment and the treasury released 235 million euros ($265 million) of emergency funds.
At the Vatican, Pope Francis cancelled part of his general audience to pray for the victims. Rescue workers used helicopters to pluck trapped survivors to safety in the more isolated villages, which had been cut off by landslides and rubble. Aerial photographs showed whole areas of Amatrice, voted last year as one of Italy’s most beautiful historic towns, flattened by the 6.2 magnitude quake. Many of those killed or missing were visitors.
“It’s all young people here, it’s holiday season, the town festival was to have been held the day after tomorrow so lots of people came for that,” said Amatrice resident Giancarlo, sitting in the road wearing just his underwear. “It’s terrible, I’m 65-years-old and I have never experienced anything like this, small tremors, yes, but nothing this big. This is a catastrophe,” he said.
The national Civil Protection Department gave the official death toll of 120 at about 12 hours after the pre-dawn quake struck. Scores more will still believed unaccounted for, with the presence of the summer holidaymakers making it diffi- cult to tally. Patients at the badly damaged hospital in Amatrice were moved into the streets. “Three quarters of the town is not there anymore,” Amatrice mayor Sergio Pirozzi told state broadcaster RAI. “The aim now is to save as many lives as possible.
There are voices under the rubble, we have to save the people there.” Stefano Petrucci, mayor of nearby Accumoli, said some 2,500 people were left homeless in the local community, made up of 17 hamlets.
Residents responding to wails muffled by tonnes of bricks and mortar sifted through the rubble with their bare hands before emergency services arrived with earth-moving equipment and sniffer dogs. Wide cracks had appeared like open wounds on the buildings that were still standing.
The national Civil Protection Department said some survivors would be put up elsewhere in central Italy, while others would be housed in tents that were being dispatched to the area. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said he would visit the disaster area later in the day: “No one will be left alone, no family, no community, no neighbourhood. We must get down to work .. to restore hope to this area which has been so badly hit,” he said in a brief televised address.