ROME – As Italy prepares to mark the first anniversary of a devastating 2016 earthquake that killed nearly 300 people, the resort island of Ischia was struck by a temblor on Monday night, killing two people and injuring dozens.
On Tuesday, firemen worked tirelessly to rescue an entire family from the rubble of their house.
“My first thought when I saw the light was God,” said Ciro Marmolo, aged 11, who’s now being called in Italy the “hero child.” He was the last of three young brothers, including a 7-month old baby, rescued by fire fighters. Their father was also pulled from the rubble.
Speaking with Italian TV Luna, Marmolo said that when he learned his youngest brothers were safe, “I became courageous and said: I have to make it.”
The child was transferred to a local hospital, where he was accompanied by his brothers, Mattias, 7, and Pasquale, the youngest. Their mother, Alessia, was also presented in the news report. She’s currently five months pregnant.
“I understood that on that damned night, God’s hand intervened to save us,” she said. “I have learned to appreciate life.”
The Marmolo family has lost their house and with it, “our toys, our things… We’ve lost it all,” Ciro said.
Also present in the hospital room was fireman Marco de Felice, coordinator of the squadron working at the site in Ischia. For him, the child had nothing but words of praise — and a promise of eating pizza together.
“Thank you for giving me courage,” Ciro told de Felice. “If it wasn’t for you, all of you, I would probably be dead.”
Ischia is located off the coast of Naples. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the quake, which struck at 8:57 p.m. local time, measured a magnitude of 4.3.
The two fatalities were women, one of whom was killed by falling debris from a 19th-century church.
On Wednesday, during his weekly general audience, Pope Francis prayed for the victims of the earthquake.
Last year, upon hearing about the 6.2-magnitude quake that destroyed several towns in central Italy well before dawn on Wednesday, August 24, Pope Francis tossed his prepared remarks aside and instead led the thousands of pilgrims gathered in praying the Rosary.
A candle-lit procession is scheduled for Wednesday at midnight in the hardest-hit town, Amatrice.
Shell-shocked locals suffered three more violent quakes, on October 26 and 30 and January 18 — the last one sparking an avalanche that destroyed a hotel and killed 29 people. Damage to homes, schools, hospitals and churches in the region are estimated at $27.7 billion.