A strong earthquake has struck near Norcia in central Italy, destroying numerous buildings.
It comes nearly two months after a major earthquake killed almost 300 people and destroyed several towns.
The quake early on Sunday measured 6.6, larger than August’s quake and aftershocks last week. It is thought to be Italy’s most violent in decades.
At least 11 people have been hurt but no deaths are reported so far. Many locals left after last week’s quakes.
Nine people have been pulled alive from the rubble, Italian media say.
Tremors were felt in the capital Rome, and as far away as Venice in the north. It was at a depth of only 1.5km (0.9 miles).
Pope Francis mentioned the quake in his Sunday blessing in Rome’s St Peter’s Square.
“I’m praying for the injured and the families who have suffered the most damage, as well as for rescue and first-aid workers,” he said to loud applause.
The US Geological Survey said the epicentre of the quake was 68km south-east of the regional centre of Perugia and close to the small town of Norcia.
Monks at the monastery of San Benedetto, an international Benedictine community in Norcia, tweeted an image of the Basilica of St Benedict destroyed by the earthquake.
“The monks are all safe, but our hearts go immediately to those affected, and the priests of the monastery are searching for any who may need the Last Rites,” the monks said later in a statement.
Norcia is believed to be the birthplace of St Benedict.
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Frightened residents rushed into squares and streets after the quake, at about 07:40 local time (06:40 GMT), AP reported.
Italy’s civil protection department head Fabrizio Curcio said there were at least nine people with minor injuries and two seriously injured.
Helicopters were being used to reach remote areas and help the injured, he said.
Norcia Bishop Renato Boccardo said the recent series of quakes had taken their toll on local people.
“Everyone has been suspended in a never-ending state of fear and stress. They are at their wits’ end,” he said, quoted by Reuters.
The towns of Castelsantangelo and Preci have also suffered considerable damage, but were mainly abandoned after last week’s quakes, of magnitude 5.5 and 6.1.
Castelsantangelo’s mayor, quoted by La Stampa newspaper, said there were no casualties at all in the town as “everyone had already left”.
The mayors of the villages of Ussita and Arquata said many buildings had collapsed there too.
The Ussita mayor told Ansa news agency: “Everything collapsed. I can see columns of smoke, it’s a disaster. I was sleeping in the car and I saw hell.”
Another church collapsed in Tolentino, possibly with people inside celebrating Mass.
Italy’s most violent earthquakes since 1900
- October 2016 – Norcia, central Italy, magnitude 6.6, no deaths reported so far
- November 1980 – Campania, southern Italy (Naples badly hit), magnitude 6.9, up to 5,000 killed
- July 1930 – Irpinia, Campania, magnitude 6.6, 1,400 killed
- January 1915 – L’Aquila, magnitude 6.7, more than 30,000 killed
- December 1908 – Strait of Messina, magnitude 7.1, up to 200,000 killed by earthquake and tsunami
- September 1905 – Calabria, magnitude 7.2, up to 2,500 killed by tsunami
Amatrice, the town which suffered most in the August earthquake, has also been affected.
Six people are reported to have been pulled alive from the rubble in Norcia and three in Tolentino.
Services on the metro in Rome have been suspended since the quake, and some tourist sites were closed for a few hours.
Central Italy has seen several major quakes in recent years. Earthquakes which devastated the town of L’Aquila in 2009 and Amatrice in August this year killed about 300 people each.
But they both measured only 6.2 and were deeper than Sunday’s earthquake.
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Italy quake: Powerful tremor near Norcia destroys buildings