Earth tremor in Italy destroys Church, several buildings

A strong earthquake has struck near Norcia in central Italy, destroying numerous buildings.

The quakes come nearly two months after a major earthquake killed almost 300 people and destroyed several towns.

Sunday’s quake measured magnitude 6.6, larger than August’s quake and aftershocks last week, and was at a depth of only 1.5km (0.9 miles).

There were no immediate reports of casualties. Many local people had been evacuated after last week’s quakes.

Tremors were felt in the capital Rome, and as far away as Venice in the north.

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.

Frightened residents rushed into squares and streets after the quake, at about 07:40 local time (06:40 GMT), AP reported.

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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.

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.

Amatrice, the town which suffered most in the August earthquake, has also been affected.

Italy’s civil protection department said there were “checks under way in all the towns affected by this morning’s quake”.

Services on the metro in Rome have been suspended since the quake.

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