Strong earthquake hits Italy, deaths reported


L`aquila : A strong earthquake rocked a large swathe of central Italy on Monday, killing at least 10 people and causing houses, churches and other buildings to collapse, officials said.

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Some media said as many as 13 people had been killed in L`Aquila, a city founded in the 13th century about 100 km (60 miles) east of Rome, and surrounding villages.

Four children were reported killed in one building in L`Aquila, two in one outlying village and five in another.

“Thousands of people (could be left) homeless and thousands of buildings collapsed or damaged,” Agostino Miozzo, an official at the civil protection ministry, said.

Rubble blocked most of the old streets in L`Aquila, burying some parked cars, but even some modern structures on the outskirts collapsed.

Part of a university residence collapsed in l`Aquila, a popular tourist destination, but it was not clear if anyone was inside.

The bell tower of a church in the centre of the city also collapsed and a church collapsed in another village. The area has many Romanesque and Renaissance churches.

A number of people were reported to have been injured and still trapped under rubble in the city and outlying areas from the quake, which measured 6.3 on the Richter scale — the strongest earthquake to hit Italy in years, officials said.

The quake struck shortly after 3.30 a.m. (0130 GMT) and was centred in the mountainous Abruzzo region east of Rome.

Residents in many parts of central Italy felt the quake and some ran out into the streets. Residents of Rome, which is rarely hit by seismic activity, were woken by the quake.

Furniture rattled, lights swayed and car alarms went off. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake`s epicentre was believed to be some 60 miles (95 km) from Rome and that its depth was 6.2 miles (10 km).

The agency initially put the scale of the quake at 6.7 but later lowered it 6.3. Italian officials put the magnitude at about 5.8.

The quake was the latest and strongest in a series to hit the l`Aquila area on Sunday and Monday.

Earthquakes can be particularly dangerous in parts of Italy because some buildings are centuries-old.(*)