While the number of victims of the earthquake that hit central Italy in the early hours of Wednesday climbs, the gestures of generosity and aid for those affected have multiplied.
At approximately 3:30 am Aug. 24, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck roughly six miles southeast of Norcia in central Italy. Over the next several hours, nearly 200 aftershocks shook the regions of Umbria, Lazio, and Marche, leaving towns throughout the area devastated.
So far, at least 159 people have been killed, according to Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi. More than 360 are injured; most of the victims are from the towns of Amatrice, Accumoli, Arquata del Tronto, and Pescara del Tronto – all of which have been reduced to rubble.
Among those affected by the disaster are the Benedictine monks of Norcia. They are all safe, but their buildings are damaged, and the community has announced that they will transfer to Rome for a time as a precautionary measure.
“We strive to maintain the order of the Rule even during the most difficult of circumstances, and this transfer, while disruptive, will ensure the safety of our monks and grant us all the peace to continue to practice our monastic life,” they stated.
However, aid has arrived quickly. Medical teams, nurses, and rescue workers from the Italian Aid Corps of the Sovereign Order of Malta have already reached the affected areas.
In Arquata del Tronto, a canine unit has been called in to aid rescue operations. An emergency evaluation team – including a doctor and a nurse – is now located in Amatrice, where it is joined by staff of the Department of Civil Protection engaged in disaster intervention and medical care.
The Order of Malta has activated a mobile unit that will provide assistance to the affected populations in Amatrice and Accumoli. Within hours of the earthquake, the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta, Fra. Matthew Festing, extended to Italian president Sergio Mattarella a message of condolence.
“I want to convey feelings of sincere condolences for the many victims. I also want to express solidarity and sympathy, and assure prayers of comfort and consolation to their family, to the survivors, and to the displaced persons,” Festing said.
As in other similar situations, Vatican City has sent help, making six fire brigades available to the Italian Civil Protection. In addition, the Catholic aid group for ill Lourdes pilgrims, Unitalsi, along with Bishop Domenico Pompili of Rieti are coming back from their pilgrimage to Lourdes in order to help the victims in Amatrice.
“We have already sent the National Department of Civil Protection a note informing them of the immediate availability of our personnel and motor vehicles for the transport of disabled persons,” said Unitalsi national president, Antonio Diella.
Bishop Javier Echevarría Rodriguez, the prelate of Opus Dei, asked Catholics, “especially the faithful of the Prelature and our friends present in the area. to collaborate as much as possible and to help those responsible for organizing and bringing relieve to those affected.”
On social media throughout Italy, there are many posts from people offering support and shelter for survivors of the earthquake, and many teams of volunteers from around Italy have arrived in the provinces of Rieti and Ascoli Piceno.