A powerful 6.2-magnitude earthquake followed by a series of aftershocks has rocked central Italy. Strong tremors were felt in the countryâ€™s capital, Rome, and several small towns and villages have been seriously damaged with at least 38 people killed.
The quake hit at 01:36 GMT with an epicenter 76 kilometers southeast of the city of Perugia, the US Geological Survey reported.
The town of Norcia, home to some 5,000 residents, lies just 10km southeast of the quakeâ€™s epicenter, according to US Geological Survey (USGS). The ancient Italian city of Spoleto in the Perugia province with some 40,000 residents is located 35km east of the quake.
The shaking appears to have woken up quite a few residents in central Italy. Besides Rome, aftershocks were also felt in Florence.Â
Jenny Parkinson, a Rome resident, wrote on Twitter the building she was insideÂ â€œswayed for what seemed an age â€“ bed rocking, lightshades swinging. Horrid!â€
The tremors lasted for about 20-30 seconds, eyewitnesses say.
A series of strong aftershocks followed the initial quake, with one of them having an estimated magnitude of at least 5.4.Â
The death toll from the earthquake in central Italy has jumped to 38, a spokeswoman from the Civil Defense department said.
The Italian army has been mobilized to aid earthquake-affected areas, the Italian Defense Ministry wrote on Twitter.
People have reportedly run in panic into the streets in central Umbria and Le Marche regions, according to RAI radio, cited by AFP.
The Italian authorities are monitoring the situation and have been in contact with the Civil Protection Agency, the prime ministerâ€™s spokesman said on Twitter.Â
Sergio Pirozzi, a mayor of the town of about 2,700 residents, said it needs urgent assistance from civic protection services, citing extensive damages.
â€œThe ancient doors have come down. We need help from the civic protection [services],â€Â he said to Radi Rai.
"Iâ€™m trying to contact the services. The town doesnâ€™t exist anymore,â€Â he added.
Although, there is no information on the casualties yet, several people are trapped under the rubble, the mayor confirmed, La Republica reported.
â€œThere's been a landslide and a bridge might collapse,â€Â the mayor told RAI.
The national civil protection agency stated the earthquake is estimated to beÂ â€œsevere,â€Â Reuters reported.
Multiple reports of damages are coming in on Twitter.
Apart from Amatrice, buildings have collapsed in Arquata and Norcia. At least two deaths due to the earthquake were reported in Arquata, according to RailNews 24.
Four people have been confirmed dead by the mayor of the town of Accumoli, RailNews reported.
â€œFour people are under the rubble, but they are not showing any sign of life. Two parents and two children,â€Â Accumoli Mayor Stefano Petrucci said, as cited by RAI television.
According to RAI sources, two people were killed in the village of Pescara del Tronto, some 13 kilometers from Accumoli.
"Here we are collapsing, we are in an emergency,"Â Petrucci said, as cited by Italian news agency Andkronos.
The death toll is expected to rise as more people, including a family with two children, are trapped under the ruble, the mayor added.
"Itâ€™s a disaster, we canâ€™t coordinate the relief efforts. I also know of confirmed casualties in Illica,"Â he said, as cited by the Telegraph.
The USGS graphics suggestÂ â€œsignificant casualtiesâ€Â are likely to occur in Central Italy with small town of Accumoli, Norcia, Maltignano, Amatrice, Cascia and Cittareale are listed as most exposed to the quake. The economic damages are expected to be significant and â€œlikely widespread.â€Â
â€œPast events with this alert level have required a national or international level response,â€Â the USGS states.
A series of strong aftershocks followed the initial quake. One with a 5.5 magnitude occurred 4 kilometers from the town of Norcia at a depth of 10 kilometers.