at least 68 dead, toll expected to rise
A magnitude 6.2 earthquake has struck central Italy, leaving at least 68 people dead and 150 missing, as rescuers search for survivors. Many of the dead were in Accumoli, close to the epicentre, and a short distance away in Amatrice, which was largely reduced to rubble. According to a BBC report this morning, the village of Pescara del Tronto was levelled to the ground and the number of dead was expected to rise.
The quake hit at 03:36 (01:36 GMT), 100km (65 miles) north-east of Rome.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi paid tribute to the volunteers and civil defence officials who had rushed to the scene in the middle of the night and used their bare hands to dig for survivors.
BBC reported that local authorities were unsure of the full extent of casualties but 28 deaths were reported in Accumoli and Amatrice.
Eleven people were reported dead including children in the neighbouring villages of Pescara del Tronto and Arquata del Tronto.
An elderly couple and a boy were among the victims there while 20 people have been taken to hospital. Two boys aged four and seven were pulled alive from the rubble of the house they had been staying in with their grandmother, Ansa news agency reports. Rescuers said they had been sheltering under a bed.
Rescuers were still trying to reach the remote village of Peracchia di Acqua Santa Terme a few kilometres to the east.
Some of the worst damage was in the town of Amatrice, where rescue efforts were under way to find survivors. Among those missing were three nuns.
“The roads in and out of town are cut off,” said mayor Sergio Pirozzi. “Half the town is gone. There are people under the rubble. There’s been a landslide and a bridge might collapse.
“There are tens of victims, so many under the rubble. We’re preparing a place for the bodies.”
The local hospital was described as unusable and survivors were taken to nearby towns for treatment.