Reports say 6.6-magnitude quake felt over wide area including Rome and Naples and as far as Croatia and Slovenia
Italy has been rocked by a 6.6-magnitude earthquake, hitting the central Italian region already reeling from a series of destructive quakes.
The epicentre of the latest earthquake, according to initial reports, was about 40 miles (68km) south-west of Perugia and close to the town of Norcia, which had been hit by two successive quakes on Wednesday night that caused extensive damage.
There were no initial reports of fatalities but the head of Italy’s civil protection agency, Fabrizio Curcio, said “a dozen” people were injured, with one person described as being in a serious condition.
Emergency services pulled three people from the rubble in Tolentino, a town in Marche.
While there was relief that the area seemed to have been spared mass casualties – in large part because affected areas had already been abandoned after the previous quake – there was extensive damage to ancient structures across the hilly regions of Marche and Umbria.
The quake, which was felt in Rome and Naples, levelled historic structures that had already sustained major damage, including a tower and St Augustine church in Amatrice – the town devastated by an earthquake in August that killed about 300 people.
In Norcia, a town in Umbria, the basilica of St Benedict was destroyed, as was the cathedral, where only remnants of the facade still stood.
On Sunday morning, live television images showed firefighters in Norcia’s main square helping people running down small alleyways seeking safety. They included many monks and nuns from a nearby monastery.
Authorities were also reporting extensive damage in other towns of the region. Apart from Rome and Naples, tremors were also felt in neighbouring countries including Slovenia and Croatia.
“It all came down. Now there is no more town,” said Aleandro Petrucci, the mayor of the Marche town of Arquata del Tronto. There had already been “red zones” in place, abandoned after the previous quakes. “The few people who remained have gone out to the streets and are embracing. Now we’re going around to see what happened,” he said.
Cesare Spuri, the head of civil protection in Marche, said: “There are collapses everywhere. We report collapses in Muccia, Tolentino and in the areas surrounding Macerata. We’re trying to establish if people are underneath the rubble. There was also a strong shock in Ancona.”
“Everything’s collapsed. I see plumes of smoke, it’s a disaster,” said Marco Rinaldi, the mayor of Ussita, a town in the Marche that was among the worst hit in a 6.1-magnitude quake on Wednesday night.
In Rome, the quake on Sunday caused far more concern than Wednesday’s as it was felt much more strongly and for a longer period. The city’s metro was shut down for safety checks in case of damage.
“I was woken up by the earthquake,” Gianpaolo Giovannelli, who lives in the Flaminio area of Rome, told the Guardian. “The apartment started to shake. We feel them here in Rome, but we never get used to them so each time we feel fear.”
Assia Staffoli, from Rome, said her husband put their six-year-old daughter under the table when they felt the earthquake, which caused their bedrooms, on a mezzanine level, to shake badly.
“That’s what you’re told to do when there’s an earthquake, go under the table,” Staffoli said. “I was feeding my son [aged seven months] when it happened. We then quickly left the apartment.”