A strong earthquake brought down buildings in mountainous central Italy early on Wednesday, trapping residents and sending others fleeing into the streets, with at least 10 people believed killed
The quake caused serious damage to a number of towns and villages, but did not seem to have hit heavily populated areas, Unian reports.
The worst affected towns were believed to be Accumoli, Amatrice, Posta and Arquata del Tronto.
'Now that daylight has come, we see that the situation is even more dreadful than we feared with buildings collapsed, people trapped under the rubble and no sound of life,' said Accumoli mayor Stefano Petrucci.
Earlier, Petrucci told RAI state broadcaster that a family of four had been buried when their house collapsed, adding that there was no indication they had survived.
RAI quoted police as saying two people were known to have died in the nearby village of Pescara del Tronto. Two bodies were removed from the debris in the small town of Amatrice.
'Three quarters of the town is not there anymore,' Amatrice mayor Sergio Pirozzi told RAI. 'The aim now is to save as many lives as possible. There are voices under the rubble, we have to save the people there.'
The Italian earthquake institute (INGV) reported 60 aftershocks in the four hours following the initial quake, the strongest measuring 5.5. It measured the original quake at 6.0.