VISSO, Italy: Two strong earthquakes rocked central Italy on Wednesday, toppling buildings and injuring dozens of people, according to initial reports, two months after a devastating tremor killed nearly 300 in the same region.
The first 5.5 magnitude quake sent people running out of their houses, likely saving lives when the second, more destructive, 6.1 magnitude one struck two hours later.
Rescuers working through the night and in the rain were struggling to assess the full extent of the disaster.
“Many houses have collapsed. Our town is finished,” Marco Rinaldi, mayor of the mountain town of Ussita, told Sky Italy television by telephone. “The second quake was a long, terrible one,” he said. “I’ve felt a lot of earthquakes but that was the strongest I’ve ever felt. Fortunately everyone had already left their homes after the first quake so I don’t think anyone was hurt.”
Several dozen people were treated for light injuries or shock, civil protection chief Fabrizio Curcio told a late night news conference, but no serious injuries had been reported. “Ultimately, the situation is not as catastrophic as might have been expected” given the strength of the tremors, he said.
The quakes were felt in the capital Rome, sending residents running out of their houses and into the streets. The second was felt as far away as Venice in the far north, and Naples, south of the capital.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) registered a first 5.5 magnitude quake at 1710 GMT, with the second two hours later. In both cases the epicenter was near the village of Visso in the central Marche region.