At least 38 dead as strong earth quake rocks central Italy

From The Associated Press:

AMATRICE, Italy (AP) — A devastating earthquake rocked central Italy early Wednesday, collapsing homes on top of residents as they slept. At least 38 people were killed in hard-hit towns where rescue crews raced to dig survivors out of the rubble, but the toll was likely to rise as crews reached homes in more remote hamlets.

“The town isn’t here anymore,” said Sergio Pirozzi, the mayor of Amatrice.

The magnitude 6 quake struck at 3:36 a.m. (0136 GMT) and was felt across a broad swath of central Italy, including Rome, where residents felt a long swaying followed by aftershocks. The temblor shook the Lazio region and Umbria and Le Marche on the Adriatic coast.

Premier Matteo Renzi planned to head to the zone later Wednesday and promised: “No family, no city, no hamlet will be left behind.”

The hardest-hit towns were Amatrice and Accumoli near Rieti, some 100 kilometers (80 miles) northeast of Rome, and Pescara del Tronto further east. Italy’s civil protection agency said the preliminary toll was 38 dead, several hundred injured and thousands in need of temporary housing, though it stressed the numbers were fluid.

The center of Amatrice was devastated, with entire buildings razed and the air thick with dust and smelling strongly of gas.

Rocks and metal tumbled onto the streets and dazed residents huddled in piazzas as some 39 aftershocks jolted the region into the early morning hours, some as strong as 5.1.

“The whole ceiling fell but did not hit me,” marveled resident Maria Gianni. “I just managed to put a pillow on my head and I wasn’t hit luckily, just slightly injured my leg.”

Another woman, sitting in front of her destroyed home with a …

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