EARTHQUAKES

Italian quake death toll rises to 159 as rescuers use bare hands to dig out survivors from the rubble

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 August, 2016, 8:11am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 August, 2016, 8:11am

Rescue crews using bulldozers and their bare hands raced to dig out survivors from a strong earthquake that reduced three central Italian towns to rubble Wednesday, killing 159 people but the number of dead and missing was uncertain given the thousands of vacationers in the area for summer’s final days.

Residents wakened before dawn by the temblor emerged from their crumbled homes to find what they described as apocalyptic scenes “like Dante’s Inferno,” with entire blocks of buildings turned into piles of sand and rock, thick dust choking the air and a putrid smell of gas.

“The town isn’t here anymore,” said Sergio Pirozzi, the mayor of the hardest-hit town, Amatrice. “I believe the toll will rise.”

The magnitude 6.2 quake struck at 3:36 am on Thursday and was felt across a broad swath of central Italy, including Rome, where residents woke to a long swaying followed by aftershocks. The temblor shook the Lazio region and Umbria and Le Marche on the Adriatic coast, a highly seismic area that has witnessed major quakes in the past.