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Strong quake rattles Italy, many feared dead

At least 11 people have so far been reported dead after numerous buildings collapsed due to 6.2-magnitue earthquake in central Italy early on Wednesday.

An increase in death toll is highly likely as dozens of mountain villages have been devastated.

The hardest-hit towns were Amatrice and Accumoli near Rieti, some 100 kilometers northeast of Rome, though the quake was felt beyond the Lazio region into Umbria and Le Marche on the Adriatic coast.

IMAGE: A man is rescued alive from the ruins in Amatrice.

The epicentre of the quake was about 170 km northeast of Rome near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria. The tremors were sufficiently strong to wake residents of central Rome.

The first two confirmed victims were an elderly couple whose home collapsed in Pescara del Tronto in the Marche region, east of the epicentre, according to agency reports.

Sergio Pirozzi, mayor of Amatrice, a mountain village close to the epicentre, said that the town ‘isn’t here anymore’ and many residents are buried under the debris.

IMAGE: Rescuers carry a person on a stretcher.

Amatrice is famous in Italy as a beauty spot and is a popular holiday destination for Romans seeking cool mountain air at the height of the summer. It was packed with visitors at the peak of the summer season.

The mayor of Accumoli, Stefano Petrucci, said at least six people had died there, including a family of four, and two others.

‘We have a tragedy here. For the moment one death is confirmed but there are another four people under the rubble and they are not responding. It is a disaster, we have no light, no telephones, the rescue services have not got here yet,’ Petrucci was quoted as saying by national broadcaster Rai.

IMAGE: A woman sits amongst the rubble. Amatrice mayor said the town ‘isn’t here anymore’.

The first quake struck shortly after 3.30 am (local time), according to the United States Geological Survey, and a 5.4 magnitude aftershock followed an hour later.

USGS’s PAGER system, which predicts the impact of earthquakes, issued a red alert — suggesting significant casualties and damage based on previous quake data.

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