Switzerland has offered its condolences and support to neighbouring Italy following an earthquake that reduced three central towns to rubble, killing 247 people.
Johann Schneider-Ammann, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year, sent a letter of sympathy to his Italian counterpart, Sergio Mattarella.
Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter was in contact with his counterpart, Paolo Gentiloni, the foreign ministry said. It added that, as far as it knew, there were no Swiss casualties.
The magnitude 6 earthquake struck at 3:36am on Wednesday and was felt across a broad swath of central Italy, including Rome, where sleeping residents woke to a long swaying followed by aftershocks. The quake shook the Lazio region and Umbria and Le Marche on the Adriatic coast.
Residents emerged from their crumbled homes to find what they described as apocalyptic scenes “like Dante’s Inferno”, with entire blocks of buildings turned into piles of sand and rock, thick dust choking the air and a putrid smell of gas.
“The town isn’t here anymore,” said Sergio Pirozzi, mayor of the hardest-hit town, Amatrice. “I believe the toll will rise.”
Rescue crews using bulldozers and their bare hands raced to dig out survivors. The death toll stood at 247 on Thursday morning. However, the total number of dead and missing was uncertain given the huge number of holiday makers in the area for the final days of summer.
swissinfo.ch and agencies