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PM, president offer condolences, aid to Italy after deadly quake

Sympathies, offers to help rescue and recovery efforts pour in from world leaders as death toll from pre-dawn tremblor climbs to 120

Rescuers search amid rubble following an earthquake in Amatrice Italy, Wednesday, August 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Rescuers search amid rubble following an earthquake in Amatrice Italy, Wednesday, August 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday extended his condolences to the Italian people after a massive earthquake leveled three remote mountain towns and claimed the lives of at least 120 people.

A statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said Netanyahu offered his Italian counterpart, Matteo Renzi, assistance in the ongoing rescue operations in the hard-hit villages of Amatrice, Accumoli and Arquata del Tronto.

The magnitude 6 quake struck at 3:36 a.m. (0136 GMT) and was felt across a broad swath of central Italy, including Rome, where residents felt a long swaying followed by aftershocks. The temblor shook the Lazio region and Umbria and Le Marche on the Adriatic coast.

With hundreds injured and an unknown number of people trapped under rubble, rescue workers expect the death toll to mount further.

President Reuven Rivlin Wednesday evening also extended his condolences to the people of Italy in the wake of the deadly quake.

“Our thoughts are with the Italian people during these difficult times,” Rivlin said in a statement. “On behalf of the citizens of Israel, please offer my condolences to the families of the victims and a speedy recovery to all those injured.”

A spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces told The Times of Israel that the army had not been informed if it would be dispatched for search and rescue or recovery operations.

Bodies of victims lie in front of rescuers in the Italian central town of Pescara del Tronto, on August 24, 2016, after a powerful earthquake rocked central Italy. (AFP PHOTO/MARCO ZEPPETELLA)
Bodies of victims lie in front of rescuers in the Italian central town of Pescara del Tronto, on August 24, 2016, after a powerful earthquake rocked central Italy. (AFP PHOTO/MARCO ZEPPETELLA)

Condolences for the victims and offers for assistance poured in from other world leaders as rescue efforts in the mountain villages devastated by the quake continued into Wednesday night.

US Secretary of State John Kerry offered his sympathies to Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni for “the loss of life and devastation” caused by the earthquake.

US State Department spokesman John Kirby said that Kerry had offered any US assistance that Italy might require and made clear “the American people stand with Italians in this difficult time.” He said Kerry pledged to stay in close contact as search, rescue and recovery efforts continue.

German leaders also offered condolences and assistance, with Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier saying that “if it is wanted, we are of course ready to provide support,” and Chancellor Angela Merkel expressing “the deep sympathy of the German people” in a message Renzi.

French President Francois Hollande also offered Italy “all the help that might be necessary” after the earthquake, which he called a “terrible tragedy.”

The pre-dawn temblor was Italy’s most powerful earthquake since the 2009 L’Aquila disaster.

“Half the village has disappeared,” said Amatrice mayor Sergio Pirozzi, surveying a town center that looked as if had been subjected to a bombing raid.

Later on Wednesday, Pope Francis interrupted his weekly audience in St Peter’s Square to express his shock.

“To hear the mayor of Amatrice say his village no longer exists, and knowing that there are children among the victims, is very upsetting for me,” he said.

Renzi, who planned to head to the zone later Wednesday evening, promised that “No family, no city, no hamlet will be left behind.”

Agencies contributed to this report.

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