Italy quake leaves popular hillside holiday destination in rubbles
Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours of Wednesday, leaving at least 18 people dead and devastating dozens of mountain villages.
USGS's PAGER system, which predicts the impact of earthquakes, issued a red alert -- suggesting significant casualties and damage based on previous quake data.
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.
Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicentre of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely.
The tremors were sufficiently strong to wake residents of central Rome, some 150 km (90 miles) away.
The town’s hospital had been badly damaged by the quake, with patients moved into the streets.
The first quake struck shortly after 3.30 am (0130 GMT), according to the United States Geological Survey, and a 5.4 magnitude aftershock followed an hour later.
"The town is no more," Mayor Sergio Pirozzi told the affiliate. "I have an appeal to make: we have access roads to the town cut off and people under the rubble, help us."
Italy is often shaken by earthquakes.
Italy sits on two fault lines, making it one of the most seismically active countries in Europe.
The last major earthquake to hit the country struck the central city of L’Aquila in 2009, killing more than 300 people.
The most deadly since the start of the 20th century came in 1908, when an earthquake followed by a tsunami killed an estimated 80,000 people in the southern regions of Reggio Calabria and Sicily.