A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 has rocked the same area of central and southern Italy hit by a quake in August and a pair of aftershocks last week, sending already quake-damaged buildings crumbling after a week of temblors that have left thousands homeless.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths. Residents already rattled by a constant trembling of the earth rushed into piazzas and streets after being roused from bed by Sunday’s 7:40 a.m. quake. Many people had still been sleeping in cars or evacuated to shelters or hotels in other areas after a pair of strong jolts last Wednesday.
The mayor of quake-hit Ussita said a huge cloud of smoke erupted from the crumbled buildings.
“It’s a disaster, a disaster!” Mayor Marco Rinaldi told the ANSA news agency.
Another hard-hit city, Castelsantangelo sul Nera, also suffered new damage. In Arquata del Tronto, which had been devastated by the Aug. 24 earthquake that killed nearly 300 people, Arquata Mayor Aleandro Petrucci said, “There are no towns left.”
“Everything came down,” he said.
The quake was felt throughout the Italian peninsula, with reports as far north as Bolzano and as far south as Bari. Residents rushed into the streets in Rome, where ancient palazzi shook, swayed and lurched for a prolonged spell.
The head of the civil protection authority in the March region, Cesare Spuri, said there have been reports of buildings collapsing in many cities.
“We are trying to understand if people are under the rubble,” Spuri said.
The European-Mediterranean Seismological Center put the magnitude at 6.6 or 6.5 with an epicenter 82 miles northeast of Rome and 42 miles east of Perugia, near the epicenter of last week’s temblors. The U.S. Geological Survey put the magnitude at 6.6.
The German Research Centre for Geosciences put the magnitude at 6.5 and said it had a depth of 6 miles, a relatively shallow quake near the surface but in the norm for the quake-prone Apennine Mountain region.