This article originally appeared on VICE Italy.
The earthquake that hit the center of Italy early Wednesday morning has so far claimed 241 lives, while 264 people are injured. Rescue operations in and around Amatrice are still in progress. The small town is tucked away in the mountains and has been reduced to a pile of rubble after the earthquake.
The only way to get there or to leave is with a minibus from Civil Protection—the national body coordinating rescue operations. Every bus is packed with rescuers and journalists and drops them off at a spot about half a mile outside of the town—driving any farther isn't safe.
Injuries are treated in field hospitals nearby, while people who need more care are brought to hospitals in Rieti, Norcia, or Rome—43, 34, and 87 miles away respectively. The fact that the town is so hard to reach explains why rescue teams were so late in the initial aftermath of the earthquake.
When I arrived in Amatrice at 7 PM on Wednesday, policemen, firemen, soldiers, and Civil Protection units were digging in the rubble and trying to coordinate the operation. Rescuers have come from all over the country: I met Red Cross volunteers from Rome, firefighters from Milan, and civilians who were trying to help the best they could while being kept at a safe distance. Rescue operations continued throughout the night, while the stadium—the only spacious structure still standing in Amatrice—was turned into a makeshift camp. Those camps provided temporary shelter to people who just lost their homes, or were waiting to hear if their loved ones were still alive.
I stayed with the rescue teams in Amatrice until dawn the next day.