Nuns, priest and past quake survivor escape death in Italy

AP News
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Posted: Aug 25, 2016 12:55 PM
Nuns, priest and past quake survivor escape death in Italy

AMATRICE, Italy (AP) — Among the survivors of Wednesday's devastating earthquake in central Italy were nuns, a priest and survivors of previous quakes. Some saw their houses collapse into debris and dust, while the homes of others are still standing but deemed unsafe.

Here's a look at survivors, their escapes and how they're coping now:

THE CARETAKER

In 1977, when Violeta Bratu was just 8, she survived a strong earthquake in her native Romania that killed 1,500 people. After Wednesday's quake, she arranged for the 97-year-old man she cares for to be transported to safety in his hospital-style bed because their home was deemed uninhabitable.

They sought shelter in a sports center on the edge of Amatrice, where the bedridden Antonio Putini lay under his plaid wool blanket, which Bratu brought from home, hoping it would give him some comfort.

"I said without him I am not going anywhere," she recalled, sitting next to Putini as he breathed from an oxygen tank.

Putini slept through the earthquake and his son drove up after to help bring him and Bratu to safety. Bratu's dog, a white Bishon Maltese, rested at Putini's feet.

"It's the only thing of mine here," she said.

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THE NUN

Several elderly women were enjoying a reprieve from the summer heat in care of nuns in a convent in Amatrice, a medieval hilltop town. When the quake struck, half of the convent collapsed, apparently killing three nuns and four elderly women.

Sister Mariana, a 32-year-old from Albania, was one of three nuns and another woman who survived because they were in another part of the convent.

She said the other survivors escaped by holding hands.

"They saved each other, they took their hands even while it was falling apart, and they ran, and they survived," she said.

Her fellow nuns now are caring for her in Ascoli Piceno to the east. She received hospital checks for a forehead wound and dust inhalation.

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THE PRIEST

A Polish priest, the Rev. Krzysztof Kozlowski, was trapped in his destroyed home in Accumoli for several hours before he was pulled out Wednesday. His next door neighbors died and he attributes his own survival to a miracle.

As he awaited rescue, he experienced the terror of aftershocks, which he feared would bring down the rest of the structure.

"Even as I was waiting for help, for someone to bring me out of the apartment, I could feel the tremors. I was afraid they could destroy whatever was left of my house," the priest told the Polish broadcaster TVN.

The priest, who has served in Accumoli for two years, said his neighbors, a family with a 6-year-old child and an 8-month-old baby, died.

"This is a great miracle for me. My neighbors died. I was miraculously saved, rescued by a rescue team. I was born anew," Kozlowski said.

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THE HOMEOWNER

For Giuseppe, the reality of the loss was sinking in Thursday. As he stood in front of his damaged home in Saletta, a district of Amatrice, he contemplated the scope of help he will need to return to normal life.

"Right after the quake, everything was mad, you couldn't even understand if you were still alive or not," Giuseppe, who wouldn't give his last name, told The Associated Press. "Today is a bit better; we are hopeful that help will come. We need help because we don't have anything any longer."

"We are waiting to get help because it's the only solution that we have," he said.

Still, Giuseppe, who lived alone, was luckier than many around him. While other homes collapsed, his bore only cracks and his life was never in danger.

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THE NEIGHBOR

A Polish woman who survived the earthquake in Amatrice with her family says she will never forget the "evil murmur of moving walls."

Ewa Szwaja said on Polish TVN24 in Amatrice that she and her husband were woken by tremors and a "terrible noise."

"I will remember till the end of my life this noise, the evil murmur of moving walls," she said.

Szewaja also described the huge relief of seeing that their 4-year-old son Mateusz, who slept in their room, was alive. They put on warm clothes and the family escaped through the balcony.

"The house in front had collapsed and we stepped from the balcony onto the rubble. The bedroom of our neighbors did not exist anymore."

In the darkness they could hear calls for help.

"From everywhere people were calling 'Aiuto! Aiuto!' but we could not help them because they were under the rubble."

"Our neighbors, my son's friends and their mom died under the rubble," Szwaja said, fighting back tears. "Their father was doing the night shift and was saved."

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Gera reported from Rome. Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, Poland, contributed to this report.

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This story corrects the spelling of one of the reporter's surnames to D'Emilio.