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Strong earthquake hits central Italy

The worst hit towns were believed to be Accumoli, Amatrice, Posta and Arquata del Tronto, spokesman for the Italian fire department Luca Cari told Reuters. The earthquake caused damage to towns in three regions – Umbria, Lazio and Marche. It measured the original quake at 6.0.

A strong earthquake brought down buildings in mountainous central Italy early on Wednesday, trapping residents and sending others fleeing into the streets, with at least 63 people believed killed and 150 at least are missing, according to ANSA new agency.

According to Reuters, the quake caused serious damage to a number of towns and villages but did not seem to have hit heavily populated areas. The worst hit towns were believed to be Accumoli, Amatrice, Posta and Arquata del Tronto, spokesman for the Italian fire department Luca Cari told Reuters. Helicopters would be sent up at first light to assess the damage, he said.

The mayor of Accumoli said a number of buildings had been badly damaged. "Four people are under the rubble, but they are not showing any sign of life. Two parents and two children," Mayor Stefano Petrucci told RAI television.

RAI quoted police as saying two people were known to have died in the nearby village of Pescara del Tronto.

The mayor of the small town of Amatrice reported extensive damage. "Half the town is gone," Sergio Pirozzi told RAI. "There are people under the rubble… There's been a landslide and a bridge might collapse."

The earthquake caused damage to towns in three regions – Umbria, Lazio and Marche.

"Pescara del Tronto, one of the many communes hit by the earthquake is completely destroyed. This has just been declared by its mayor in tears  to the Italian main TV channel that since early morning is committed to broadcast news on the proceedings of the damages that the large quake wave has hit", says Italian journalist Mario Masciullo.

"The director of the National Geophisical and Volcanologist expert in Roma said that the initial strong quake waves shall be followed by many minor shocks (creating continus panic to the population). The earth quake that destroyed the city of Aquila some years ago recorded 10.000 medium vibrations following the major one and 64.000 more settlement vibrations, stated the director. And added that the quake itself destroys only the buildings whose construction is weak. A map of the Italian earth quake zone was presented to the Italian Government in the year 2003 with recommandation of provisions to be adopted: nothing was done to prevend damages, said the director to the TV interviewer", continues Masciullo.

Asked on the origin of the earth quake in the central area of Italy the director of the National Geophisical and Volcanologist Institute replied that it originates by a damage suffered by the stratum of the Appennine Mounts chain ( the Central Italy's mounts) back in 1639-1703

The U.S. Geological Survey, which measured the quake at 6.2 magnitude, said it struck near the Umbrian city of Norcia, which has a picturesque historic centre and is a popular tourist site.

Mayor Nicola Alemanno said no deaths have been reported deaths in Norcia."The anti-seismic structures of the town have held. There is damage to the historic heritage and buildings, but we do not have any serious injuries," he told RAI.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's office said rescue teams were being sent to the worst-hit areas. Italy's civil protection agency said the earthquake was "severe".

Residents of Rome, some 170 km (105 miles) from the epicentre, were woken by the quake, which rattled furniture and swayed lights in most of central Italy.

There were 17 reported aftershocks in the three hours following the initial quake, the strongest measuring 5.5, the Italian seismic office said. It measured the original quake at 6.0.

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