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Major seismic tremor in Italy, felt in Rome

Rome, Italy | October 30, 2016, Sunday @ 13:00 in World » GENERAL | By: AFP | Views: 1624
Major seismic tremor in Italy, felt in Rome

A photo taken on October 28, 2016 shows a damaged car in the "red zone", an area cordoned off for safety reasons, in Camerino, where 80 per cent of the houses have been left uninhabitable after two earthquakes hit the region. Italy on October 28 vowed to rebuild every home destroyed after two powerful earthquakes that forced thousands to flee in terror but "miraculously" did not cause any fatalities. Following two powerful 6.1 and 5.5 magnitude quakes on October 26 which left almost 5,000 people homeless, Italy's national geophysics institute (INGV) has recorded almost 700 tremors, with experts saying they could go on for weeks or months. (ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP)

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(AFP) - A powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 6.6 struck central Italy early Sunday, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said, but there were no immediate reports of any casualties.

The quake -- which was felt from Rome to Venice -- struck at 0640 GMT six kilometres (3.5 miles) 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 Sunday's quake.

Italy's major risks commission cautioned Friday that there may be more powerful earthquakes to come following two this week in the country's mountainous centre and a deadly one in August.

"There is no current evidence that the (seismic) sequence underway is coming to an end," it warned.

The National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks (CGR) said that in the wake of the August 24 quake that killed nearly 300 people it had identified three areas at risk for further seismic activity.

The areas were "adjoining the fault responsible" for the disaster which levelled entire villages, it said in a statement referring to the fracture in the earth's crust where quakes can occur.

They were areas "which have not seen recent, large earthquakes and could produce high-magnitude quakes (6-7)", it added.

Wednesday's quakes (5.5 and 6.1 magnitude) "activated one of the areas identified by the commission, to the north of the August quake, while the other two did not move," it said.

Those that did not move, both in the central Appenines, "represent possibile sources of future earthquakes in the region".

In particular, the commission said it "cannot rule out the continuation of seismic activity to the north of the Vettore-Bove," referring to Mount Vettore and Mount Bove on the border between the Umbria and Marche regions.

It described the earthquakes, to be typical of those in the Apennines, and warned history shows very strong quakes can follow each other here even months apart.

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