Rome, Oct 26: A pair of powerful aftershocks shook central Italy today, knocking out power, closing a major highway and sending panicked residents into the rain-drenched streets just two months after a powerful earthquake killed nearly 300 people.
The first quake carried a magnitude of 5.4, but the second one was even stronger, with a preliminary magnitude of 6.1 according to the German Research Centre for Geosciences. The US Geological survey put the magnitude at 6.0 and said the epicenter was in Visso, where buildings crumbled into the street.
People screamed in the streets after the second temblor of the night. "It was a very strong earthquake, apocalyptic," Ussita Mayor Marco Rinaldi told the ANSA news agency.
"People are screaming on the street and now we are without lights." Two people were injured in the Visso area, but otherwise there were no other immediate reports of victims, said Italy's civil protection chief, Fabrizio Curcio. Old churches crumbled and other buildings were damaged, though many of them were in zones that were declared off-limits after the August 24 quake that flattened parts of three towns.
"We're without power, waiting for emergency crews," said Mauro Falcucci, the mayor of Castelsantangelo sul Nera, near the epicenter.
Speaking to Sky TG24, he said: "We can't see anything. It's tough. Really tough." He said some buildings had collapsed, but that there were no immediate reports of injuries in his community. He added that darkness and a downpour were impeding a full accounting.
Italy's national vulcanology centre said the first quake struck at 7:10 pm local time with an epicenter in the Macerata area, near Perugia in the quake-prone Apennine Mountain chain.
The US Geological Survey put the epicenter near Visso and said it had a depth of some 10 kilometers. The second aftershock struck two hours later at 9:18 p.m. with a similar depth. Experts say even relatively modest quakes that have shallow depths can cause significant damage because the seismic waves are closer to the surface.
But seismologist Gianluca Valensise said a 10-kilometer depth is within the norm for an Apennine temblor. The August 24 quake destroyed the hilltop village of Amatrice and other nearby towns and had a depth of about 10 kilometers.
Amatrice Mayor Sergio Pirozzi said residents felt today's aftershocks but "We are thanking God that there are no dead and no injured." Today's temblors were felt from Perugia in Umbria to the capital Rome to the central Italian town of L'Aquila, which was struck by a deadly quake in 2009. The mayor of L'Aquila, however, said there were no immediate reports of damage there.