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Powerful Earthquake Strikes Mountainous Region Of Central Italy


Rescue workers are going through rubble and searching for survivors after an earthquake hit central Italy earlier today. At least 159 people have been killed, and many more are missing. One of the hardest hit areas is the historic town of Amatrice. Twenty-three-year-old volunteer Federico Colapicchioni was in the town after the earthquake hit, passing out food and water. He says the town was filled with people there for the summer.

FEDERICO COLAPICCHIONI: Especially in this week. There was a huge festival because this is the town known all over the world for the pasta Amatriciana. So this week has been certainly the worst week to have an earthquake.

MCEVERS: Reporter Christopher Livesay is in Amatrice, and he's joining us now. Hi there.


MCEVERS: Can you just describe where you are now? What's Amatrice like?

LIVESAY: Well, normally Amatrice is a quaint, little Italian town nestled in the Apennine Mountains, but unfortunately locals are mourning that depiction of their town that's been reduced to rubble. Unfortunately it was perhaps the most beautiful part of this town, the medieval part that dates back centuries that suffered the worst damage and inflicted the worst harm.

MCEVERS: The mayor of Amatrice told reporters that half the town no longer exists, and that's really hard to imagine. Is that the case?

LIVESAY: It's definitely the case. There are parts of the town that look like the aftermath of a barrel bomb. I mean it's pretty devastating. Then of course there are some buildings that were built in more recent years that were earthquake-proof, but it were those buildings that were built centuries ago that have suffered the worst damage and inflicted the most death.

MCEVERS: What are you hearing from emergency responders? What are they telling you about the rescue efforts so far?

LIVESAY: Every first responder I've spoken to liken this disaster to what happened in 2009 in the nearby city of L'Aquila. In that earthquake, over 300 people were killed, and it was of a similar magnitude. This earthquake, rescuers are saying they expect the death toll to be even higher.

MCEVERS: Are they able to get to the places that were most affected?

LIVESAY: They are most of the time, and they're doing so with the help of sniffing dogs, with cranes and with helicopters. But one other thing that distinguishes this earthquake from what happened in L'Aquila in 2009 is that L'Aquila was mostly isolated in one city of 80,000 people that had many roads going to and from, whereas in this case, the earthquake really stretches from coast to coast, striking smaller-sized towns along the way, many of which are nestled in the mountains and are only accessible with small, little winding roads.

So access is proving to be difficult, and I'm sure - and this is based on what first responders are telling me - it's going to take days to fully understand the enormity of this disaster.

MCEVERS: Are there shelters for people who survived the earthquake but whose homes were destroyed?

LIVESAY: Absolutely. They've been setting up shelters all around me. I'm seeing dozens of tents being set up in city park. But of course there are several other towns that have been affected, and I'm being told by the Civil Protection Agency that such is the case all over the country, everywhere that's been afflicted.

MCEVERS: That's reporter Christopher Livesay in the village of Amatrice. He's reporting on the magnitude 6.2 earthquake that hit central Italy today. Thank you so much, Chris.

LIVESAY: Thank you, Kelly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Christopher Livesay