Caritas staff and volunteers in Italy are already responding with emergency assistance and support to those on the ground following a powerful 6.2 magnitude earthquake that struck north-east of Rome, 11 km from Norcia, Italy.
The earthquake was in the mountainous terrain of central Italy where many small towns were devastated by the shallow earthquake, causing severe damage to buildings and loss of life.
More than 247 people reportedly been killed and hundreds more injured, while more than 1000 homes were damaged or destroyed.
It is estimated that more than 1000 people have been displaced by the quake, following the collapse of houses built of un-reinforced brick or concrete.
Local Caritas networks launched an emergency response on the day of the quake, with volunteers and staff, including bishops, helping the affected population with essential aid including food and other basic necessities.
Pope Francis addressed pilgrims in St Peter’s Square in Rome hours after the quake.
“I cannot fail to express my heartfelt sorrow and spiritual closeness to all those present in the zones afflicted,” he said. “I want to assure all the people of Accumuli, Amatrice, the diocese of Rieti, Ascoli Piceno, and all the people of Lazio, Umbria, and Le Marche, of the prayers and close solidarity of the entire Church”.
The Italians Bishops’ Conference has allocated 1 million Euros (more than $AUD1.4 million) to the response for initial urgent and basic needs.
Caritas Australia has sent messages of support and goodwill to those on the ground.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the earthquake,” said Melville Fernandez, Caritas Australia Head of Emergencies.
“Our colleagues are already responding to those in need and we thank them for their care. We continue to be in close contact with our partners in Italy and are monitoring the response and situation as the emergency unfolds.”