Italy earthquake kills at least 159, reduces towns to rubble

From The Associated Press:

AMATRICE, Italy (AP) — 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. The death toll stood at 159, 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 a.m. 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.

Dozens of people were pulled out alive by rescue teams and volunteers that poured in from around Italy.

In the evening, about 17 hours after the quake struck, firefighters pulled a 10-year-old girl alive from the rubble in Pescara del Tronto.

“You can hear something under here. Quiet, quiet,” one rescue worker said, before soon urging her on: “Come on, Giulia, come on, Giulia.”

Cheers broke out when she was pulled out.

And there were wails when bodies emerged.

“Unfortunately, 90 percent we pull out are dead, but some make it, that’s why we are here,” said Christian Bianchetti, a volunteer from …

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