Amatrice: The town at the epicenter of the Italian earthquake

01:09 - Source: CNN
Witnesses recount horrors of Italy's deadly quake

Story highlights

Amatrice was set to hold the 50th edition of the "Festival of the Spaghetti all'Amatriciana"

Town is famous for tomato-based pasta dish, honored in national postage stamp

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.

 Amatrice's clock tower remains virtually untouched.
Amatrice's clock tower remains virtually untouched.

The rest of the small, mountainous village wasn’t so lucky.

“The town is no more,” Amatrice Mayor Sergio Pirozzi told CNN affiliate Rai of the village, which has a population of around 2,000 people.

“I have an appeal to make: we have access roads to the town cut off and people under the rubble, help us.”

A woman is pulled from the rubble following an earthquake in Amatrice, Italy.
Massimo Percossi/AP
A woman is pulled from the rubble following an earthquake in Amatrice, Italy.

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

Italy Earthquake: Live updates

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.”

Rescuers search for survivors in the rubble in Amatrice.
Alessandra Tarantino/AP
Rescuers search for survivors in the rubble in Amatrice.

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.

The Ti Tirreno Adriatico cycle race goes through picturesque Amatrice.
Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
The Ti Tirreno Adriatico cycle race goes through picturesque Amatrice.

Amatrice’s dramatic landscape was a stunning backdrop to the grueling 1,000 kilometer race, in the 2014 edition of the competition.

Many remote villages hit

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.

Read more: Italy earthquake leaves dozens dead, towns in ruins

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.

CNN’s Tim Hume contributed to this report