A series of earthquakes measuring 5.3-5.7 magnitude struck central Italy on Wednesday, bringing fresh terror to an area still reeling from deadly quakes last year and struggling to cope with heavy snowfall.
Monitors said the first quake, which struck at 10:25 am (0925 GMT) was around 5.3 magnitude and a second, some 50 minutes later, was put at 5.7 magnitude by the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC). It was quickly followed by a third, measured at 5.5.
The tremors were felt across the Abruzzo, Lazio and Marche regions and also in Rome, over 100 kilometres (60 miles) away.
Underground train services in the capital were suspended on safety grounds and the Italian foreign ministry and some schools were evacuated.
Those schools that were not already closed due to snow in towns and villages closer to the affected area were also evacuated.
Emergency services mobilised helicopters to check the impact of the quakes.
There were no immediate reports of building collapses but residents of the city of Aquila, which has been badly hit in previous earthquakes, rushed into the streets in scenes of panic.
The epicentres of the quakes were pinpointed in an area close to Amatrice, the mountain town devastated by the first of the earthquakes which struck the mountainous centre of the country between August and October last year.
Nearly 300 people died in that 6.0 magnitude quake, most of them in or close to Amatrice, a beauty spot which was packed with holiday makers at the height of the summer season.
Two further quakes rattled the region in October, with the most powerful measuring 6.5 magnitude.
The latest quake came in the wake of 36 hours of continuous snowfall in areas close to Amatrice and another badly-hit mountain town, Norcia.
Amatrice mayor Sergio Pirozzi cursed his town's bad luck.
"I don't know if we did something bad. That's what I have been asking since yesterday. We have got up to two metres of snow and now another earthquake. What can I say? I have no words."
As a result of last year's quakes many residents have been evacuated to temporary accommodation outside the earthquake-prone zone along Italy's mountainous spine.
Date created : 2017-01-18