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Major earthquake rocks central Italy overnight

(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 morning.

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.

Many of the dead are from three badly-affected villages — including 10 people in Pescara del Tronto, six in Accumoli and five in Amatrice, CNN affiliate Rai reported.

The quake comes ahead of Amatrice’s “Festival of the Spaghetti 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. In 2008, Italy even issued a stamp in honor of the famous dish.

Amatrice and nearby towns are situated in remote, mountainous terrain particularly popular with tourists in the summer months.

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.

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.

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.

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.