Italy earthquake: Death toll rises to at least 159

  • 24 August 2016
  • From the section Europe
Media captionThe earthquake caused houses to crash down the hillside in Pescara del Tronto, as Damian Grammaticas reports

At least 159 people have been killed and 368 injured in an earthquake that hit a mountainous area of central Italy, civil protection officials say.

The magnitude-6.2 quake struck at 03:36 (01:36 GMT), 100km (65 miles) north-east of Rome, not far from Perugia.

At least 86 of the dead were in the historic town of Amatrice, where the mayor said three-quarters of the town was destroyed, and in nearby Accumoli.

Many people are still believed to be buried under rubble.

Rescue teams are using heavy lifting equipment and their bare hands and authorities said the search for survivors would continue through the night.

Media captionSister Marianna: "I went outside to ask for help, but no one heard me"

There were cheers in the village of Pescara del Tronto when an eight-year-old girl was pulled alive from the rubble after being trapped for 17 hours.

Earlier, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi warned the toll could rise as he visited the area.

He had previously paid tribute to the volunteers and civil defence officials who rushed to the scene in the middle of the night and used their bare hands to dig for survivors.

He promised "no family, no city, no hamlet will be left behind".

The tremor was felt across Italy, from Bologna in the north to Naples in the south. There have been dozens of aftershocks.

Hardest hit were the small towns and villages in the mountainous area where the regions of Umbria, Lazio and Le Marche meet.

As well as the 86 dead in the two towns of Amatrice and Accumoli, 34 people are known to have been killed in Le Marche province, including in the neighbouring villages of Arquata del Tronto and Pescara del Tronto.

  • Health minister Beatrice Lorenzin said there were many children among the dead
  • In Amatrice the missing include three nuns and four guests at their convent
  • In Accumoli the dead include a mother, father and their two young sons; rescuers had heard the screams of the mother and one of the children and had frantically tried to reach them in time, Italian media reported
  • Mayor Stefano Petrucci told Ansa that not a house in the town was fit for habitation, and they would have to set up tents to house everyone
  • Almost all houses in Pescara del Tronto have collapsed, the local mayor said
  • In Arquata, a grandmother saved her two grandchildren, aged four and seven, by pulling them under a bed with her
Image copyright AP
Image caption Aerial images showed the extent of the damage in Amatrice
Image copyright AP
Image caption A rescued woman in Amatrice, which appears to have suffered the most fatalities

Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology said it had recorded more than 200 aftershocks by 15:00 (13:00 GMT) on Wednesday.

The country is no stranger to earthquakes: in 2009 a tremor killed more than 300 people in L'Aquila and in May 2012 two tremors nine days apart killed more than 20 people in the northern Emilia Romagna region.

Rescue teams from around the country have been sent to the affected region.

The area is mountainous and access is difficult. Tent camps are being set up for those who need shelter, while others will be accommodated in buildings such as gymnasiums.

The national blood donation service has appealed for donors to come forward.

Many of the people affected were on holiday in the region. Some were in Amatrice for a festival to celebrate a famous local speciality - amatriciana bacon and tomato sauce.

Why is Italy at risk of earthquakes? By Jonathan Amos

Earthquakes are an ever-present danger for those who live along the Apennine mountain range in Italy.

Through the centuries thousands have died as a result of tremors equal to, or not much bigger than, the event that struck in the early hours of Wednesday. The modern response, thankfully, has been more robust building and better preparation.

Mediterranean seismicity is driven by the great collision between the African and Eurasian tectonic plates; but when it comes down to the specifics of this latest quake, the details are far more complicated.

The Tyrrhenian Basin, or Sea, which lies to the west of Italy, between the mainland and Sardinia/Corsica, is slowly opening up.

Scientists say this is contributing to extension, or "pull-apart", along the Apennines. This stress is compounded by movement in the east, in the Adriatic.

The result is a major fault system that runs the length of the mountain range with a series of smaller faults that fan off to the sides. The foundations of cities like Perugia and L'Aquila stand on top of it all.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Rescuers in the village of Pescara del Tronto
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Pescara del Tronto is in Le Marche region of central Italy
Image copyright EPA
Image caption In Accumoli this woman was one of many displaced by the disaster
Image copyright Google/AP
Image caption These pictures show the main street in Amatrice before and after the quake
Image copyright Google/EPA
Image caption These images show the hamlet of Pescara del Tronto before and after

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