As I was getting ready to go to bed tonight, I received several messages alerting me to a 6.2 magnitude earthquake in central Italy. The USGS says that the “The quake’s epicenter was 4.1 miles west-northwest of Accumoli, Italy, and at least 70 miles northeast of Rome.” Other reports say that the quake struck just 10km southeast of Norcia, where the now-famous Benedictine Monks of Norcia live.
Of course, my friend Hilary White, who is also an occasional contributor here at 1P5, lives in Norcia as an oblate of that monastery. As reports came in, she was not online. Fortunately, a mutual friend who works in Rome was able to reach her by phone, and she is safe. My Roman contact offers more information based on what he knows (it’s just after 6AM in Italy as I write this, and the quake happened around 3:30AM local time):
The Benedictines are ok, but their Church is damaged. There have been multiple earthquakes in the last two hours.
Nursini (citizens of Norcia), including monks, were in the town square after the first quake – advised by the authorities not to go back into the monastery, monks led the people in a Rosary.
Some nearby towns hit very hard, it is believed that several people, at least, have died. There are reports that there are others buried under rubble.
Very hilly area, so hard to get relief vehicles in. Helicopters are flying in, but roads have been damaged – at least one bridge collapsed – so they are having difficulty sending in rescue workers.
Another reader who lives in Italy also contacted me a short while ago, and shared this:
We had a tremor here (Ancona-Italy) about half an hour ago (about 3.35 am) it was not strong but long, people took to the street . Later I heard , same thing in Napoli and Rome (throuh some FB friends) Some minutes later I got to know, Rieti (close to Rome) It’s about 4.20 now. It seems the epicentre was Rieti : 6 magnitude
Starting from 3.30 we have been having tremors. My whole building took to the street. Me too.
Amatrice (Rieti) close to Rome was one of the most hit. Some building were pulled down.
The tremor involved large part of Italy from Central North to the South.
Amatrice and Accumuli (Rieti) were the two most hit. People are under the debris. Those towns have been mostly destroyed!
Also in Arquata del Tronto (Abruzzo Region) buildings collapsed
Reports are now coming in from major news sources. It’s bad in some areas. Pictures are filtering in from people on Twitter:
— flavio maccarone (@magar81) August 24, 2016
— Part Time Monk (@parttimemonk) August 24, 2016
In this report, we hear from the mayor of the aforementioned town of Amatrice:
The European Mediterranean Seismological Center put the magnitude at 6.1 and said the epicenter was northeast of Rome, near Rieti. The U.S. Geological Survey put the magnitude at 6.2.
The mayor of Amatrice near Rieti, Sergio Perozzi, told state-run RAI radio that there were downed buildings in the city center and that the lights had gone out. He said he was unable to get in touch with emergency responders or reach the hospital.
“What can I tell you? It’s a drama,” he said.
Perozzi sia residents are buried under the debris of collapsed buildings and that “the town isn’t here anymore,” adding he needs heavy equipment to clear rubble-clogged streets to get to the injured.
Asked if there were any dead he said: “Look there are houses that aren’t here anymore. I hope we get some help.”
My friend in Rome reminds me that
St Emygdius is patron of earthquakes. And Sts Benedict and Scholastica, of course, are patrons of Norcia.
Any prayers, of course, are appreciated.
My contact in the region of Amatrice just sent me a message as I was finishing this report that the mayor there is now indicating that there are voices coming from under the debris. Please pray for the people in this area.
UPDATE (8/24/26 @ 8:16AM): Reports now indicate that the death toll has reached 38, and there have been 60 aftershocks, some as high as 5.5. From Reuters:
The quake struck in the early hours of the morning when most residents were asleep, razing homes and buckling roads in a cluster of communities some 140 km (85 miles) east of Rome.
A family of four, including two boys aged 8 months and 9 years, were buried when their house in Accumoli imploded.
As rescue workers carried away the body of the infant, carefully covered by a small blanket, the children’s grandmother blamed God: “He took them all at once,” she wailed.
The army was mobilized to help with special heavy equipment and the treasury released 235 million euros ($265 million) of emergency funds. At the Vatican, Pope Francis canceled part of his general audience to pray for the victims.
Aerial photographs showed whole areas of Amatrice, voted last year as one of Italy’s most beautiful historic towns, flattened by the 6.2 magnitude quake.
“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,” said Amatrice resident Giancarlo, sitting in the road wearing just his underwear.
“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.
Accumoli mayor Stefano Petrucci said some 2,500 were left homeless in the local community, which is made up of 17 hamlets.
The photos are pretty staggering.
In the comments below, Hilary White reports in from Norcia. She writes:
I’m fine, as are all the monks and guests and as far as I know, all the Nursini. Picked the worst possible day to not bother recharging my phone. I’ve had a dozen text messages, some from very far away, and I can’t respond to any of them. Sorry if I gave people a fright.
I’ve never in my life heard such a terrifying noise. As a child of the Cold War, the first thing that popped into my sleep-addled brain was … well…
there was no flash, so…
That thought changed swiftly to “Oh, it’s an earthquake.” Then I remembered where I was and that in this part of the world earthquakes are a very bad thing. I was curled into a ball with my arms over my head and praying the roof didn’t come down on me. But my house is stone and is well out of town, and survived the big quake of ’97, so I was fine.
By the time I’d checked the house and the kitties (they’re fine too, slept through the whole thing,) there were already cars heading down the hill to town. There was one really big aftershock, and I decided to go down too. When I got to the piazza there were already a couple hundred people there, including all the monks. We were asked to stay away from the church and the monastery, and there were quite a few very scary aftershocks. During one, the stone of the piazza felt a bit like standing on a trampoline. We all gathered in the middle of the piazza while I watched the statues and the big stone cross on top of the Basilica waving back and forth, but nothing more fell. We’ve been having aftershocks pretty steadily.
No one was hurt as far as we know so far in Norcia, and the damage in town was mostly superficial. The fire department shut the gas off all over town, so there were no fires.
Of course, since then we’ve learned that other towns, particularly Accumoli and Amatrice have been hit very much worse and that people have died and are missing. Esp. please pray for the people they’ve found in Accumoli who are shouting for help but are buried.
The monks are all OK. There was a fair bit of damage to the plaster work in the church, much of which is now on the floor, and the monastery will have to be inspected for damage. There are engineers in Italy who specialize in this work.
Laudes was sun g in the crypt church this morning, because it was thought to be the safest place. Indeed, it’s stone vault design has withstood earthquakes since the 2nd century BC. I must say, that’s an experience I won’t forget soon: singing the Divine Office of Laudes for the Feast of St. Bartholomew. No one skipped a beat when the aftershock shook us during the Magnificat.
We’ve been feeling aftershocks pretty steadily, but so far no really big ones since about 5:30 am. We think it’s probably mostly over as I write this at eight thirty am. The quake was at 3:35.
The town now has the job of inspecting all the public buildings to assess the damage. But people mostly stayed home. There were only a couple hundred people in the piazza. Of course, structural damage is going to be harder to see, but for the moment, the monks are back in their monastery.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.