A 6.2-magnitude earthquake hit central Italy early Wednesday killing at least 63 people and trapping scores under debris.
Reports have it that the death toll, reported by the Italian news media, was almost certain to rise, given that scores of people remained unaccounted for.
According to news sources, the strong earthquakes set off tremors that awakened residents in Rome, nearly 100 miles to the southwest.
The earthquake was said to have struck at 3:36 a.m., about 6.5 miles southeast of the town of Norcia in the Umbria region, followed by about 40 quakes over the next three hours, including a 5.5-magnitude temblor at 4:33 a.m.
Towns across three regions — Umbria, Lazio and Marche — were devastated by the quakes, which could be felt as far away as Bologna in the north and Naples in the south. The towns of Accumoli, Amatrice, Arquata del Tronto and Pescara del Tronto were reported to be among the most heavily damaged.
The mayor of Amatrice, Sergio Pirozzi, speaking to reporters said, “Half the town no longer exists,”. He added that rescue teams were digging through the rubble, “hoping that most people were alive.” The historic center of the town, with buildings dating to the Middle Ages, had been destroyed.
“The problem is removing people from under the rubble,” he said. Asked how many people he thought were still trapped or dead underneath debris, he said, “many, many.”
The mayor further appealed for aid on live television.
Reports have it that expressions of solidarity and offers of help are pouring in from France, Germany, Israel and other countries, as well as from the European Commission.