ROME, Italy — At least 18 people have died after a powerful 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck central Italy in the early hours of Wednesday, according to local officials.
Deaths were reported in three villages in a mountainous area straddling the regions of Lazio and Marche: Amatrice, Accumoli and Pescara del Tronto.
At least 10 people died in Pescara, a hamlet that is part of the bigger village of Arquata del Tronto, according to civil protection officers cited by the ANSA news agency.
Six bodies were recovered at Amatrice, according to the president of the Lazio region, and two at Accumoli, according to the town’s mayor.
The Israel Foreign Ministry said that it was not aware of any Israeli casualties or of any Israeli citizens who were missing in the area.
The tremors were sufficiently strong to wake residents of central Rome, some 150 km (90 miles) away.
The first two confirmed victims were an elderly couple whose home collapsed in Pescara del Tronto in the Marche region, east of the epicenter, according to national broadcaster Rai.
A family of four including two young children were found under rubble in their collapsed house in Accumoli, a village close to the epicenter, according to mayor Stefano Petrucci, the BBC reported.
“We have a tragedy here,” Petrucci told Rai. “It is a disaster, we have no light, no telephones, the rescue services have not got here yet.”
“Half the village has disappeared,” said Sergio Pirozzi, mayor of Amatrice, a mountain village in neighboring Lazio that was packed with visitors at the peak of the summer season.
He said access to the village had been blocked, making it impossible for rescue services to get through.
“There is a landslide on one road, a bridge is about to collapse on the other one,” he said, according to the AGI news agency.
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.
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.
USGS’s PAGER system, which predicts the impact of earthquakes, issued a red alert — suggesting significant casualties and damage based on previous quake data.
A resident of the Rieti region, which is between Rome and the epicenter of the quake, told the Rainews24 channel that she and most of her neighbors had come out onto the street after feeling “very strong shaking.”
In 2009 a 6.3-magnitude earthquake in the Aquila region, which was also felt in the Italian capital, left more than 300 dead.
Italy is often shaken by earthquakes. Another quake hit the northern Emilia Romagna region in May 2012, when two violent shocks 10 days apart left 23 people dead and 14,000 others homeless.
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