Italy’s strongest earthquake in 36 years reduces towns to rubble

People were pulled injured from the rubble in towns across central Italy after buildings collapsed when a 6.6 magnitude earthquake hit “like a bomb”. The earthquake struck at the heart of a region already struggling to rebuild after being devastated by a series of quakes, including one in August that left 298 people dead and two massive tremors four days ago. Buildings weakened by those seismic shocks finally collapsed when the quake hit at 7.40am local time on Sunday. Injured people were pulled from the rubble in a number of towns, but so far no deaths have been reported. The magnitude was recorded at 6.6, with a depth of 10km, and if that stands, it would make it the most powerful earthquake to hit the country in 36 years.

It was like a bomb went off. We are starting to despair. There are too many quakes now, we can’t bear it any more.

Pierluigi Altavilla, Norcia Deputy Mayor

In the town of Norcia, near Perugia, in the region of Umbria, nuns and monks fled into the street as a cathedral and a church, which had been left standing after the recent earthquakes, crumbled. The Monks of Norcia said the 14th century Basilica of St Benedict had been “flattened” in the quake. Some knelt in the rubble of the landmark, which attracts 50,000 pilgrims each year, deeply upset by the loss of the building they tended. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi pledged to rebuild all of the homes and churches destroyed by the latest earthquake. Priests have been told not to hold masses in churches in the region because of the risk and have been advised to hold All Saints Day celebrations outdoors in village towns and squares.

We will rebuild everything: the houses, the churches and the businesses. Everything that needs to be done to rebuild these areas will be done.

Matteo Renzi, Italian Prime Minister