Amatrice: The town at the epicenter of the Italian earthquake

(CNN)It’s a haunting reminder of the exact moment an earthquake reduced the historic town of Amatrice to rubble.

A single clock tower, miraculously still standing amidst the debris, and frozen on the time 3:36 a.m.
    The 13th century clock tower was able to withstand a 6.2-magnitude earthquake which struck central Italy early Wednesday.


    Scores died in the quake — 53 of those from Amatrice — according to Italy’s civil protection agency.

    Home of spaghetti festival

    The quake comes ahead of Amatrice’s “Festival of the Spaghetti all’Amatriciana” this weekend, on August 27 and 28.
    The 50th edition of the festival was likely to have drawn many tourists to the small town, known as the home of the Amatriciana pasta dish.
    The tomato-based sauce is hugely popular in Roman trattorias and traditionally includes pork jowl, olive oil, white wine, chili and pecorino cheese.
    In 2008, Italy even issued a stamp in honor of the famous dish.

    A mountainous tourist spot

    Amatrice and nearby towns are situated in remote, mountainous terrain particularly popular with tourists in the summer months.
    “During the holidays there are a lot of people there — so we don’t have a precise number (of how many are affected),” said Tommaso della Longa, a spokesman for the Red Cross.
    “We can talk about ten of thousands, but we don’t know the exact number.”


    The rural landscape, dotted with with many small villages, has also proved challenging for rescue teams trying to reach victims.
    In Amatrice, rescuers called residents’ cellphones in an effort to find those who answered, CNN affiliate Rai reported.
    If there was no answer, they moved on to the next person.

    Spectacular cycling route

    In previous years, Amatrice has also hosted the elite Tirreno-Adriatico cycling race, which winds its way between the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic coasts.


    Amatrice isn’t the only village affected by the earthquake, with the mayor of nearby Accumoli, Stefano Petrucci, describing desperate scenes as rescuers raced against time to try to save those beneath the rubble.
    “We’re digging, digging… hoping to find someone alive,” he told the CNN affiliate Rai.
    In the village of Saletta, a tiny settlement of about 20 residents 2 kilometers from Amatrice, CNN contributor Barbie Nadeau saw residents working to locate their neighbors amid the rubble of a collapsed two-story home.
    The stunned locals stood on the roadside still in the pajamas they were wearing when they fled their houses in the early hours of the morning.


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