A pair of earthquakes rattled central Italy late Wednesday, sending fearful residents running into the streets not far from where a powerful temblor killed nearly 300 people in August.
“It was a very strong earthquake, apocalyptic,” Marco Rinaldi, mayor of the small town of Ussita, told the ANSA news agency. “People are screaming on the street and now we are without lights.”
Rinaldi added, "Many houses have collapsed. Our town is finished."
"There have been collapses," Mayor Mauro Falcucci of Castelsantangelo, near the epicenter, was quoted by The Independent as saying. The area is "under a deluge" as relief efforts begin, he said.
There were scattered reports of damage to buildings in the region, including pieces of masonry crumbling, Ornella De Luca, a spokeswoman for Italy’s civil protection agency, told the Associated Press. About 60 aftershocks rocked the area, according to the CBC. The temblors were felt as far away as Rome, more than 90 miles to the south, according to Voice of America.
“All told, the information so far is that it’s not as catastrophic” as it could have been,Fabrizio Curcio, head of Italy’s civil protection agency, was quoted as saying in the Associated Press.
At least two people were wounded in the first quake, but there were no immediate reports of deaths or others injuries in either event.
The second, more powerful quake measured a magnitude-6.1, and hit nearly two hours after the earlier magnitude-5.5 quake, the
U.S. Geological Survey said. Both were located near Visso, Italy, about 150 miles northeast of Rome. Both were also relatively shallow, centered 6 miles below the surface, the USGS reported.
Quakes that rumble close to the surface tend to cause more shaking. When coupled with sometimes centuries-old infrastructure, as is the case in many of the hilltop towns of Italy, these quakes can cause significant damage. "They have a lot of old buildings that weren't constructed at a time with modern seismic codes," USGS seismologist Paul Earle told AP.
The first earthquake rattled the tiny village of Castelsantangelo sul Nera, whose mayor told reporters buildings have collapsed and the power is out, the Italian news agency reported.
"We don't have any reported victims but we're in the dark and under a downpour," Mayor Mauro Falcucci said. "We're waiting for the Civil Protection Department to bring us lighting towers".
The twin quakes are aftershocks of the magnitude-6.2 temblor that struck the same region Aug. 24, USGS geophysicist John Bellini told USA TODAY. In the past two months, 32 aftershocks of magnitude-4.0 and greater have struck the area.
The August quake killed nearly 300 people and destroyed the village of Amatrice. Wednesday’s temblors were felt in that town as well as L’Aquila, where a 2009 quake killed more than 300 people. No injuries or serious damage were reported in Amatrice or L’Aquila in the wake of the latest quakes.
The deadliest earthquake in Italy in the 20th century struck in 1908, when a quake and tsunami killed about 80,000 people in Reggio Calabria and Sicily.