120 dead in Central Italy earthquake

At least 73 people have been killed in an earthquake that hit a mountainous area of central Italy, authorities say.

The magnitude 6.2 quake struck at 03:36 (01:36 GMT), 100km (65 miles) north-east of Rome, not far from Perugia.

Many of the dead were in Accumoli, close to the epicentre, and a short distance away in Amatrice, where three-quarters of houses were destroyed, BBC said.

Many people are still believed buried under the rubble, and the death toll is expected to rise.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi paid tribute to the volunteers and civil defence officials who had rushed to the scene in the middle of the night and used their bare hands to dig for survivors,

The quake struck at a shallow depth of 10km and its intensity was compared to that of the Aquila earthquake in April 2009 in which 309 people died.

Some buildings in the capital shook for 20 seconds as the quake struck the regional border area of Umbria, Lazio and Le Marche. It was felt from Bologna in the north of Italy to Naples in the south. Some 80 aftershocks have been reported since.

Italy’s civil protection department said that at least 73 people were now known to have been killed.

While the full extent of casualties is still emerging, Italian news agency Ansa is reporting that it believes at least 35 people have been killed in Amatrice and 11 in Accumoli, and another 17 in the villages of Arquata del Tronto and Pescara del Tronto.

The mayor of Arquata del Tronto, Aleandro Petrucci, spoke of a disaster. “The village isn’t there anymore. Almost all the houses in Pescara del Tronto have collapsed.”