Houses in one of the worst-hit towns in Italy’s earthquake ‘crumbled together like sandcastles’, an eyewitness to the tremor’s aftermath has claimed.
Noé Meiler, who was woken by the quake in Rome early on Wednesday morning, went straight to Amatrice, one of the small mountain towns wrecked in the disaster.
Amatrice’s mayor told reporters that ‘half of the town no longer exists’ – a statement backed up by aerial pictures of the area, as well as Meiler’s account.
“All the houses in the old part of town were destroyed since the houses were too old to withstand this earthquake so they just crumbled together like sandcastles,” said the 18-year-old, who is studying political science at LUISS University in Rome. “They really looked like they were full of dust and couldn’t resist anything.
“I saw the first rescue workers trying to pull people out from the rubble and also a lot of civilians from the town trying to locate their loved ones and their friends.
“I saw some really devastating things. People still trapped under the rubble, screaming for help, dead children being carried away by policemen and it was just really surreal. I couldn’t believe my eyes really. It was like being in a horror movie.
“What struck me the most of all was a group of teenagers just like me calling their friends and seeing if they are still alive, breaking down in tears on the floor after they heard that their friend had died.”
Meiler, originally from Zurich, Switzerland, also came across stories of survival.
“I spoke to a few people, they were still in shock. They said there was a loud explosion and that they wouldn’t expect an earthquake to be that loud. The people here knew they live in a place where earthquakes are likely to happen but they never thought it would be on this scale.
“I heard stories of people lucky enough to jump out of their windows and rescue themselves. I heard the story of a 97-year-old man who climbed out of the rubble himself and was lucky enough to have survived.
“Another particular thing is that it’s now August and so it’s in the middle of holiday season and this town is known for being a place where Romans come to enjoy their holidays with their families, plus there is a festival coming up soon. I think if this had happened during winter we would be looking at way less casualties.
“Another striking thing I saw was the town’s clock stopped exactly at the time the earthquake hit, around 3.30am, 3.37am if I’m not mistaken.”