Rescue workers are scrambling around the clock in search of survivors after a 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck central Italy early Wednesday.
At least 159 people are dead, with dozens missing and many trapped beneath the rubble of buildings that collapsed while they slept, the Walll Street Journal reports.
Italian soldiers and emergency crews were aiding the injured and searching for survivors in the hardest-hit towns of Amatrice, Pescara del Tronto and Accumoli close to the epicenter.
The number of victims rose steadily throughout the day as rescue crews searched the rubble for dozens of missing people.
“There’s nothing left, it’s unbelievable,” said Luisella Cruciani, 69 years old, who escaped her home in Amatrice by climbing out of her window.
Aerial photographs of the town showed it was virtually flattened.
Cruciani, whose son and husband also survived the quake, sat weeping Wednesday afternoon just outside her home, which was destroyed.
“Yesterday I was celebrating my birthday with all my friends. And now 20 of them are dead,” she said.
The quake hit at 3:36 a.m. local time and was felt across most of central Italy, including in Rome and Florence, sending people running into the streets and cutting power.
The US Geological Survey put the magnitude at 6.2 with the epicenter at Norcia, about 105 miles northeast of Rome, with a depth of about 6 miles.
Fabrizio Curcio, head of the Civil Protection Agency, said the severity of the latest quake was comparable to the one that hit the L’Aquila area of central Italy in 2009, killing more than 300 people.
However, the towns involved in Wednesday’s quake are far smaller than L’Aquila.
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