Italy Earthquake Update Death toll rises to 73

A spokeswoman for the Civil Protection Department, Immacolata Postiglione, said the dead were in Amatrice, Accumoli and other villages including Pescara del Tronto and Arquata del Tronto.

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An earthquake that struck a string of mountainous towns in Central Italy on Wednesday, has killed at least 73 people and left thousands homeless.

A spokeswoman for the Civil Protection Department, Immacolata Postiglione, said the dead were in Amatrice, Accumoli and other villages including Pescara del Tronto and Arquata del Tronto.

The quake struck early in the morning when most residents were asleep. It razed homes and buckled roads in the communities.

Reuters reports that a family of four, which included two boys who were 8 months and 9 years were buried in their home in Accumoli.

The grandmother of the children held God responsible for her grief when rescue workers carried the body of the infant covered by a small blanket. "He took them all at once," she wailed.

Mayor of Accumoli Stefano Petrucci said about 2,500 have been rendered homeless in the local community, which is made up of 17 hamlets.

The army has been mobilized and equipped to rescue victims. The treasury has also released 235 million euros ($265 million) of emergency funds. Pope Francis cancelled part of his general audience to pray for the victims at the Vatican.

The quake occurred when a lot of people had arrived in the usually sparsely populated town.

A resident of Giancarlo, Amatrice said "it's all young people here, it's holiday season, the town festival was to have been held the day after tomorrow so lots of people came for that."

"It's terrible, I'm 65-years-old and I have never experienced anything like this, small tremors, yes, but nothing this big. This is a catastrophe," he said sitting in the road wearing just his underwear.

"Three quarters of the town is not there anymore," Amatrice mayor Sergio Pirozzi told state broadcaster RAI. "The aim now is to save as many lives as possible. There are voices under the rubble, we have to save the people there."

The national Civil Protection Department said they will house some of the survivors in tents that were being dispatched to the area while others would be put up elsewhere.

Meanwhile Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said he would visit the disaster area later in the day. In a brief televised address he said "no one will be left alone, no family, no community, no neighbourhood. We must get down to work. To restore hope to this area which has been so badly hit."

Italy sits on two fault lines, making it one of the most seismically active countries in Europe.

In 2009, when the last major earthquake struck the central city of L’Aquila over 300 people died leaving several others homeless. The most deadly since the start of the 20th century was in 1908, when an earthquake followed by a tsunami killed an estimated 80,000 people in the southern regions of Reggio Calabria and Sicily.

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