Powerful earthquake rocks Italy, injures at least 20 people
According to reports at least 20 people were injured in the incident. The earthquake is said be the strongest tremor to hit the country in more than three decades.
The earthquake follows tremors last week and comes on the heels of a devastating quake in August, which killed nearly 300 people and flattened entire villages.
The quake - which was felt from Rome to Venice - struck at 0640 GMT (1210 IST) six kilometres north of the small town of Norcia, four days after quakes of 5.5 and 6.1 magnitude hit central Italy.
On August 24, nearly 300 people died in a major quake in the notoriously seismic-prone region.
The quake set dogs barking in the largely-abandoned towns of Norcia, Castelsantagelo, Preci and Visso, where residents had left their homes to sleep in cars or moved to the coast following this week's quakes.
"Everything collapsed. I can see columns of smoke, it's a disaster, a disaster," Marco Rinaldi, the mayor of Ussita, one of the pretty mountain villages hit hardest by the last quake, told journalists.
"I was sleeping in my car, I saw hell break out," he was quoted as saying.
Italy's civil protection department said there were "checks underway in all the towns affected by this morning's quake to determine whether there has been any damage to people or buildings."
Images aired by Italy's Sky News 24 showed monks on their knees praying silently in front of the outdoor statue of St Benedict of Norcia, while scared residents stood by.
The St Benedict basilica itself was reported to have collapsed with today's quake.