Following the devastating earthquake that has left at least 250 dead in central Italy, the Venice Film Festival has canceled its opening-night gala dinner and reception which were scheduled for next Wednesday. The festival said in a statement today, “La Biennale di Venezia shares in the bereavement, expresses its deepest sorrow for the victims, and its utmost solidarity and support to the communities struck by the earthquake.”
The 6.2-magnitude quake hit in the early morning hours of Wednesday, 85 miles east of Rome. Most impacted was the town of Amatrice where there were almost 200 deaths, Reuters reported this evening. Rescue teams have been working around the clock to search for survivors in towns covered by rubble. A violent aftershock this afternoon sent them fleeing as stones fell from the already severely damaged bell tower of the 15th century church of St Augustine in Amatrice, per Reuters. France Info radio this evening reported the death toll could rise to beyond 300.
The original earthquake was just four kilometers (2.8 miles) below the surface and was felt in Bologna to the north and Naples to the south, both more than 220 kilometers (135 miles) from the epicenter.
Venice opens Wednesday with the world premiere of Damien Chazelle’s La La Land starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. The screening is still scheduled to take place, however the gala that traditionally follows the opening-night film will not. That annual event takes place on the beachfront of the Hotel Excelsior on the Lido.
Venice runs from August 31-September 10.
Festival director Alberto Barbera tweeted today:
Annullata cena di gala e ricevimento sulla spiaggia per l’apertura di #Venezia73 in rispetto e solidarietà alle vittime del terremoto
— Alberto Barbera (@AlbertoBarbera2) August 25, 2016