Many feared dead in earthquake

AT least 27 people are feared dead after a powerful earthquake struck central Italy, destroying hundreds of homes, early this morning.

AT least 27 people are feared dead after a powerful earthquake struck central Italy, destroying hundreds of homes, early this morning.

Italian officials said the earthquake, measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale, hit at about 2.30am UK time, about 60 miles north-east of the capital, Rome.

Four children are believed to be among the dead, with reports of more fatalities in and around the city of L'Aquila.

And at least 30 people remain unaccounted for as the search for those trapped in the rubble continues.

There are reports of widespread damage to the town, including a collapsed university residence and church tower.

A civil protection official told the BBC that 3,000 to 10,000 buildings may have been damaged by the earthquake, which struck at a depth of 10km.

Most Read

Rescue workers are on the scene sifting through the wreckage and officials said they feared the death toll would rise as workers made their way through the rubble left by the collapsed buildings.

L'Aquila, a medieval town of about 70,000 inhabitants, is the capital of the mountainous Abruzz region.

Italian journalist Paulo Pacitti told the BBC that the city centre had been particularly badly hit.

He said: “All the people are now on the road, queuing, trying to reach a safe area.”

The quake was also felt in Rome and as far south as Naples, over 100 miles from the epicentre.

An aftershock with a magnitude of 4.8 was reported about an hour later by the US Geological Survey.

Yesterday two smaller earthquakes struck the same region of Italy but caused no damage.

Earthquakes of such a magnitude are relatively rare in Italy. In 2002, an earthquake in the southern Italian town of San Giuliano di Puglia killed more than 20 people.

And in 1997, 13 people died when a powerful earthquake hit the country's central region.