Tragedy struck central Italy in the early hours of Wednesday morning when a 6.2-magnitude earthquake shook the region. Geologists say the epicenter was recorded 6.5 miles southeast of Norcia in Umbria, but the quake and aftershocks were felt from Bologna in the north to Naples in the south. The areas most affected were in the mountains where Umbria, Lazio and Marche meet. Amatrice, a Lazio town known for its chefs and a treasured local pasta dish, was hardest hit.
According to Italian officials, the death toll stood at 241 people Thursday morning, with hundreds more injured and thousands displaced. Hundreds more remain missing, as rescue workers dig frantically through collapsed buildings. Aftershocks continue to pose a threat.
Most wineries seem to have been far enough away from the epicenter to escape serious damage. Several vintners expressed their fear and sorrow to Wine Spectator on Wednesday afternoon, while confirming that their families were safe.
"Luckily the earthquake happened quite far away from Orvieto," said Renzo Cotarella, who was at Castello della Sala, an Antinori property in Umbria not far from where he grew up and still lives. "We were scared but nothing occurred to us."
Chiara de Lulis Pepe, of Abruzzo’s Emidio Pepe winery, said that her family was out of harm’s way, although more than 50 bottles of aging Trebbiano were lost in the earthquake’s shocks.
Michele Bernetti, owner of Umani Ronchi in the Marche, said he felt very strong tremors but thankfully did not experience any damage in the winery or vineyards. "At the moment in my very specific area the situation is calm, and we are ready to help those inhabitants once it will be clear what will be the immediate need," he said.
Rescue workers raced from surrounding provinces to help the hard-hit areas. The town of Amatrice, in Lazio, bore a particularly brutal blow. The mountain town is home to many chefs and families who operate restaurants in Rome. Initial reports said that three-quarters of its houses were destroyed and more than 60 people have been confirmed dead. None of the town’s 2,000 residents returned to their homes to sleep last night, with the risk of aftershocks too high. The neighboring towns of Accumoli and Arquata del Tronto also suffered huge losses.
"The number of missing people is undefined at the moment," said Immacolata Postiglione, head of the emergency unit for the Civil Protection Agency, in a statement on Wednesday morning. August is the height of tourist season in Italy, and Amatrice, a popular getaway for Rome residents, was preparing for its annual Sagra dell’Amatriciana festival, celebrating a renowned local pasta dish. It's unknown if Italian visitors or foreign nationals are among the casualties.
Rescue efforts are still underway, though they are difficult because many of the impacted communities are located in mountainous, isolated regions. The Italian treasury released $265 million in emergency funds as the entire country mobilized rescue forces. Charitable efforts are also beginning as well—on Wednesday, New York Italian restaurants Maialino and Marta pledged to donate 100 percent of sales of Amatriciana pasta dishes to the relief effort.