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Earthquake flattens towns near Rome, killing dozens

Hundreds are still buried under the rubble, and authorities say the death toll may climb. Another quake in the area killed 300 people in 2009.
Searchers look for survivors in a collapsed house in Fonte del Campo near Accumoli, central Italy, 24 August 2016. (Photo by Angelo Carconi/EPA)

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A 6.0 magnitude earthquake that struck central Italy early Wednesday has killed dozens of people, flattened much of the town of Amatrice near Rome, and shook the peninsula in a radius of hundreds of miles.

Prime minister Matteo Renzi said 120 people are dead, and according to Italian news agency ANSA, hundreds more may still be under the rubble. The first of three major shocks hit at 3:36am local time, about one mile (two kilometers) outside of the small town of Accumoli, in a mountainous area about 100 miles (150 km) northeast of Rome.


The quake was felt as far south as Naples and as far north as Bologna, more than 200 miles (300 km) from its epicenter.

"Half of my town is gone," Sergio Pirozzi, the mayor of Amatrice, told broadcaster Rai. Local news site Rieti Life quoted him in a tweet as saying that "tens of people are dead" in the town of 2,500.

+++Pirozzi: "Decine di morti ad Amatrice"+++ -
— Rieti Life (@Rietilife) August 24, 2016

"We fear the death toll will climb," Immacolata Postiglione, the head of emergency services for the Italian Civil Protection agency, said.

Thousands of people across the affected region are homeless, according to the agency. Rescue efforts are complicated by the region's rugged geography. Many of the towns that have been hit the hardest are in hard-to-reach mountainous areas; several villages near Amatrice are situated at altitudes up to 3,000 feet (1,000 m) at the end of winding, narrow roads.

Filmed this at the gates of #amatrice #terremoto #italia #italiaerthquake
— Nmeiler (@Nmeiler7) August 24, 2016

The town of Accumoli, the quake's epicenter, is in the Appennine Mountains northeast of Rome.

"Not a single house is habitable," the mayor of Accumoli, Stefano Petrucci, told ANSA. "We'll have to put everybody in tents."

The quake struck near L'Aquila, where an April 2009 earthquake devastated the city, killing 309 people. While the shocks were felt strongly in Rome, there are no reports yet of damage to the city's infrastructure or to its artistic heritage. The Culture Ministry said it was verifying the structural integrity of sites including the Colosseum. Prime minister Matteo Renzi said in a press conference that he plans to visit Amatrice on Wednesday afternoon.

VICE News Italy contributed reporting for this story.