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Rescuers Scrambling To Find Quake Survivors In Amatrice, Italy

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Italy is reeling from a 6.2-magnitude earthquake that hit just before dawn this morning. At least 38 people are reported killed. More are still missing. The most devastated towns are in the central part of the country, about an hour's drive from Rome. And we have a reporter covering the story there. It's Chris Livesay. He's on the line with us. And, Chris, I understand you're in Amatrice, which is right at the epicenter of this earthquake. And the mayor has told the Associated Press that the town is half gone. What are you seeing there?

CHRIS LIVESAY, BYLINE: Well, I'm seeing the same thing. It looks like it was the victim of a barrel bombing. It doesn't look like the quaint central Italian town people expect when they come up here. It does look like a war zone.

GREENE: And are people still being rescued? I mean, is there hope that there are people alive in some of the rubble there that they'll be able to find?

LIVESAY: Absolutely. I mean, emergency workers are moving as we speak to rescue people from underneath the rubble. There are still people that they know are alive. They can hear people screaming for help. It's basically been a steady flow of ambulances in and out of the most-affected areas and then the ambulances taking those people out to nearby pastures, where sheep are normally grazing. They had to chase away sheep, kick down picket fences and create impromptu helicopter landing pads in order to fly these people to hospitals in places like Rome.

GREENE: God, it just sounds terrible. I mean, are emergency personnel are able to keep up and actually get the injured out?

LIVESAY: They seem to be doing a pretty good job, considering all of the challenges. The biggest challenge apart from the earthquake and the rubble is actually the position of this town itself. It's inside Apennine Mountains, and the only way to get here is by going up these windy, narrow roads. And so you can imagine how difficult that becomes for emergency ambulances to get in. In fact, you've got people from the Red Cross. You've got local ambulances, fire departments, and they're having to navigate these streets and figure out who has priority in order to get the victims out. But other than that, it seems like they're pretty well-staffed and handling this emergency the best they can.

GREENE: How are people in this community dealing with this? And I imagine some of them are waiting to see if their loved ones will be found.

LIVESAY: Right. Well, I spoke to one family, for instance, that had traveled here from Rome. They were in Rome at the beach when they heard that their town had been struck by an earthquake. Fortunately, they were able to get in touch with their grandmother and other relatives who were here at the time, so they were relieved. But for other people, of course, it's not been a happy ending. We're still waiting to see what the death toll is here. But this town we know is - seems to, at least, have suffered the brunt of this very powerful earthquake, so it's going to take longer to figure out exactly how many people have been hurt and how many people have been killed.

GREENE: OK, well, we'll be coming back to you, I'm sure, throughout the day. That's Chris Livesay, who is covering the aftermath of this earthquake in Italy for NPR. Chris, thank you.

LIVESAY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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