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Magnitude 6.2 Earthquake In Central Italy Kills Dozens

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

As we've been reporting, Italy is reeling from a 6.2 magnitude earthquake. It struck before dawn this morning local time. At least 38 people are reported killed. More are still missing.

The most devastated towns are in central Italy, about an hour's drive from Rome. One mayor told the Associated Press that his town, Amatrice, is half-gone and that people are still under the rubble.

We managed to reach Emma Tucker, the deputy editor of The Times of London, who's been staying in a vacation home about 50 miles from the earthquake's epicenter. She spoke to us via Skype.

Welcome to the program.

EMMA TUCKER: Hi.

MONTAGNE: Where are you now? Where are we speaking to you?

TUCKER: Well, I'm actually - we're in a farmhouse about 85 kilometers from the center of the earthquake in an area called Le Marche. We're near a little village - a little Italian hilltop village called Penna San Giovanni.

And I'm on the top floor of the house we were staying in, where the damage was worse, where we had sort of seven teenagers sleeping last night, all of whom woke up with plaster crashing all over them when the first tremor struck.

MONTAGNE: Now, you must yourself have been sleeping when the earthquake hit.

TUCKER: We're staying with friends who own this house. And we were all fast asleep. It was the middle of the night, 3:30 a.m. And the earthquake woke us up with an absolute - you know, very intense - the house started to shake. It got more and more intense.

And more than anything - I mean, obviously, the shaking of the house was terrifying - but the thing that I keep remembering was this terrible noise, this awful - you know, I was trying to describe it. It sounded like a train was heading towards the house and was about to run over it - sort of thunderous, clanking noise.

And it lasted - I mean, it was only a short quake. I'm told this is short. It was 20 seconds. But they felt very, very long - those 20 seconds - long enough for me to leap out of the house out of my bed, call the teenagers from upstairs.

We had seven teenagers sleeping above us. And we all ran out into the garden. After that, we sat around, you know, talked stories and then decided, you know, rather foolishly, in retrospect, to go back to bed. No sooner had we sat down again than there was this really scary aftershock, which was almost as bad as the initial quake.

And because we now were awake and knew what was happening, it was actually more terrifying. And at that point, we just abandoned ship and left the house and sat in the garden until the sun came up, at which point we were able to see how much damage had been done to the house, which was pretty extensive.

MONTAGNE: But you haven't decided to get out of the area altogether? Or are you not able to get out of the area altogether?

TUCKER: I think we were unlucky. I think where we are, there is damage. But it's nothing like the damage you're probably seeing on the television in the area worst affected, Amatrice. I mean, our house is badly damaged. But the whole area is kind of OK. The roads are all right. So what - we're going to stay put for now and just sort of play it a bit by ear.

MONTAGNE: Do you have any sense of what the nearby houses look like or the closest village?

TUCKER: We've been up to the village. It doesn't look too bad. The local - the builder who came around said a lot of the houses have got damage like ours, cracks in the external walls. But the roads are fine.

The real problem isn't really where we are, although a lot of houses have been affected. It's over towards the center of Italy, where the epicenter was, where, you know, there are these terrible reports of, you know, several - you know, lot of - quite a few deaths and people buried under rubble near the epicenter.

I think it's pretty awful there. I think around here, it's just a lot of inconvenience, damage to houses and interrupted holidays.

MONTAGNE: What's being reported is that people in Rome, which is...

TUCKER: Which is much further away than where we are. And if they were feeling it there, we were feeling it here. I can't imagine what it was like where it really struck hard.

MONTAGNE: Well, thank you very much for joining us.

TUCKER: My pleasure.

MONTAGNE: Emma Tucker is a journalist speaking to us from Italy, struck this morning by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake. We'll be tracking that story throughout the morning. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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