In the early morning hours of Wednesday, August 24, 2016, a 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck central Italy, damaging towns of the Umbria, Lazio and Marche regions.
Italian Civil Protection officials reported that 159 citizens have been killed and another 368 injured. The towns Amatrice, Accumoli, Atquata del Tronto and Pescara del Tronto have largely been victim to the quake.
Tremors were felt from the northern city of Bologna to Naples in the south, and reportedly felt in Rome. An additional 200 aftershocks were reported by Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology.
The quake has been compared to another that devastated central Italian city, L’Aquila, and took more than 300 lives in 2009.
National emergency procedures have been enacted by the director of Italy’s Civil Protection Agency, Fabrizio Curcio. Rescue efforts have begun despite difficult conditions, such damaged roads and limited accessibility and provisions. Citizens have joined together to uncover friends and family from the rubble, some using bare hands.
The town’s historic portion, containing structures built during the Middles Ages, has also been destroyed. Mayor Sergio Pirozzi told Italian media RAI-TV, “Half of the town doesn’t exist anymore. People are stuck underneath the rubble. Houses are no longer here.”
The quake is believed to be caused by the interaction of the African and Eurasian tectonic plates. The African plate, which the Apennine Mountain region sits on, is moving under the Eurasian at approximately 2 inches annually, according to geologist Jerzy Zaba, resulting in tremors.