A series of earthquakes rocked the world yesterday. The most devastating hit central Italy, killing at least 73 people—with an undetermined amount missing. Central Myanmar in Southeast Asia was also hit by an earthquake the same day, killing three people.
At 3:36 a.m. Wednesday, August 24, a 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck a mountainous Umbria region of Italy (about 100 miles from Rome). The towns Amatrice, Accumoli, Arquata del Tronto and Pescara del Tronto were hardest hit. About 200 aftershocks were following the initial quake, including a 5.5 magnitude tremor about an hour afterward.
According to the mayor of Amatrice, Sergio Pirozzi, their highest priority right now is “removing people from under the rubble.” The head of the emergency unit for the Civil Protection Agency, Immacolata Postiglione, says, “The number of missing people is undefined at the moment.” Compounding the problem, access to the town of Amatrice has been cut off due to damage to roads and a bridge.
Surrounding nations including France, Germany and Israel have offered to help. Nonprofit agencies are asking people to donate blood. Pope Francis even skipped the catechism lesson he was planning on teaching Wednesday and instead led the crowd in praying for those affected by the earthquake.
The buildings in these towns, some dating back to the middle ages, are beyond repair. Pirozzi says half the town of Amatrice “no longer exists,” including its historic center which was home to some of the oldest structures.
In Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), a 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit the central part of the country, near Bagan, a popular tourist destination. Bagan is Myanmar’s most famous archaeological site and home to some 2,500 ancient Buddhist temples.
Three people died in Myanmar’s quake, and buildings swayed as far away as the capital city of Yangon. The subway service in Bangkok, in neighboring Thailand, was suspended for fear of aftershocks. The region’s familiarity with earthquakes caused scores of people in India, Thailand, Bangladesh and Myanmar to run outside after feeling the tremors. The panic caused 20 people near Dhaka, Bangladesh, to be injured as workers rushed out of an industrial building.
Let us remember our Italian and Burmese friends as we pray today.