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Italy quake: 38 killed and 150 missing as rescue teams search for survivors

The town isn't here anymore: Amatrice Mayor

Published 24/08/2016

Rescuers clear debris while searching for victims in damaged buildings on August 24, 2016 in Arquata del Tronto, Italy. (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
Rescuers clear debris while searching for victims in damaged buildings on August 24, 2016 in Arquata del Tronto, Italy. (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
ARQUATA DEL TRONTO, ITALY - AUGUST 24: 75 years old Rocco Girardi is rescued from the ruins on August 24, 2016 in Arquata del Tronto, Italy. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least thirteen people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings have collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses have told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
ARQUATA DEL TRONTO, ITALY - AUGUST 24: A view of buildings damaged by the earthquake on August 24, 2016 in Arquata del Tronto, Italy. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least thirteen people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings have collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses have told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
ARQUATA DEL TRONTO, ITALY - AUGUST 24: A view of buildings damaged by the earthquake on August 24, 2016 in Arquata del Tronto, Italy. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least thirteen people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings have collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses have told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
ARQUATA DEL TRONTO, ITALY - AUGUST 24: A view of buildings damaged by the earthquake on August 24, 2016 in Arquata del Tronto, Italy. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least thirteen people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings have collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses have told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
Pope Francis reads his condolences for the victims of the earthquake in central Italy during his weekly general audience on August 24, 2016 in St Peter's square at the Vatican / AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTOVINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images
ARQUATA DEL TRONTO, ITALY - AUGUST 24: A view of buildings damaged by the earthquake on August 24, 2016 in Arquata del Tronto, Italy. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least thirteen people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings have collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses have told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
ARQUATA DEL TRONTO, ITALY - AUGUST 24: A view of buildings damaged by the earthquake on August 24, 2016 in Arquata del Tronto, Italy. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least thirteen people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings have collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses have told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
ARQUATA DEL TRONTO, ITALY - AUGUST 24: A view of buildings damaged by the earthquake on August 24, 2016 in Arquata del Tronto, Italy. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least thirteen people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings have collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses have told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
ARQUATA DEL TRONTO, ITALY - AUGUST 24: A view of buildings damaged by the earthquake on August 24, 2016 in Arquata del Tronto, Italy. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least thirteen people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings have collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses have told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
ARQUATA DEL TRONTO, ITALY - AUGUST 24: A view of buildings damaged by the earthquake on August 24, 2016 in Arquata del Tronto, Italy. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least thirteen people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings have collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses have told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
PERUGIA, ITALY - AUGUST 24: Rescuers search for victims in damaged buildings on August 24, 2016 in Arquata del Tronto, Italy. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least thirteen people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings have collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses have told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
ARQUATA DEL TRONTO, ITALY - AUGUST 24: Ruins are seen on the street on August 24, 2016 in Arquata del Tronto, Italy. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least thirteen people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings have collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses have told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
ARQUATA DEL TRONTO, ITALY - AUGUST 24: A view of buildings damaged by the earthquake on August 24, 2016 in Arquata del Tronto, Italy. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least thirteen people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings have collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses have told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
ARQUATA DEL TRONTO, ITALY - AUGUST 24: A view of buildings damaged by the earthquake on August 24, 2016 in Arquata del Tronto, Italy. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least thirteen people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings have collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses have told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
ARQUATA DEL TRONTO, ITALY - AUGUST 24: A view of buildings damaged by the earthquake on August 24, 2016 in Arquata del Tronto, Italy. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least thirteen people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings have collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses have told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
ARQUATA DEL TRONTO, ITALY - AUGUST 24: 75 year old Rocco Girardi is rescued from the ruins on August 24, 2016 in Arquata del Tronto, Italy. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least thirteen people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings have collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses have told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
ARQUATA DEL TRONTO, ITALY - AUGUST 24: Rescuers clear debris while searching for victims in damaged buildings on August 24, 2016 in Arquata del Tronto, Italy. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least thirteen people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings have collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses have told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
ARQUATA DEL TRONTO, ITALY - AUGUST 24: A view of buildings damaged by the earthquake on August 24, 2016 in Arquata del Tronto, Italy. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least thirteen people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings have collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses have told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
ARQUATA DEL TRONTO, ITALY - AUGUST 24: A view of buildings damaged by the earthquake on August 24, 2016 in Arquata del Tronto, Italy. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least thirteen people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings have collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses have told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
This still image taken from video shows survivors and rescuers wandering in the center of Amatrice, central Italy, where a 6.1 earthquake struck just after 3:30 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. The quake was felt across a broad section of central Italy, including the capital Rome where people in homes in the historic center felt a long swaying followed by aftershocks. (AP Photo)
This still image taken from video shows the destruction in Amatrice, central Italy, where a 6.1 earthquake struck just after 3:30 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. The quake was felt across a broad section of central Italy, including the capital Rome where people in homes in the historic center felt a long swaying followed by aftershocks. (AP Photo)
A makeshift medical camp is set up outside a hospital following an earthquake, in Amatrice, Italy, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. The magnitude 6 quake struck at 3:36 a.m. (0136 GMT) and was felt across a broad swath of central Italy, including Rome where residents of the capital felt a long swaying followed by aftershocks. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
The centre of Amatrice, central Italy, where a 6.1 earthquake struck just after 3:30 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. The quake was felt across a broad section of central Italy, including the capital Rome where people in homes in the historic center felt a long swaying followed by aftershocks. (AP Photo)
This still image taken from video shows a Catholic nun near a victim and an ambulance in Amatrice, central Italy, where a 6.1 earthquake struck just after 3:30 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. The quake was felt across a broad section of central Italy, including the capital Rome where people in homes in the historic center felt a long swaying followed by aftershocks. (AP Photo)
An excavator digs through rubble of collapsed buildings following an earthquake, in Amatrice, Italy, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. The magnitude 6 quake struck at 3:36 a.m. (0136 GMT) and was felt across a broad swath of central Italy, including Rome where residents of the capital felt a long swaying followed by aftershocks. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
People sit on the side of a road as collapsed buildings are seen in the background following an earthquake, in Amatrice, Italy, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. The magnitude 6 quake struck at 3:36 a.m. (0136 GMT) and was felt across a broad swath of central Italy, including Rome where residents of the capital felt a long swaying followed by aftershocks. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Rescuers search for survivors through the rubble of collapsed buildings following an earthquake, in Amatrice, Italy, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. The magnitude 6 quake struck at 3:36 a.m. (0136 GMT) and was felt across a broad swath of central Italy, including Rome where residents of the capital felt a long swaying followed by aftershocks. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
This still image taken from video shows rescuers searching a collapsed building in Amatrice, central Italy, where a 6.1 earthquake struck just after 3:30 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. The quake was felt across a broad section of central Italy, including the capital Rome where people in homes in the historic center felt a long swaying followed by aftershocks. (AP Photo)
This still image taken from video shows rescuers recover a victim from a crumbled building in Amatrice, central Italy, where a 6.1 earthquake struck just after 3:30 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. The quake was felt across a broad section of central Italy, including the capital Rome where people in homes in the historic center felt a long swaying followed by aftershocks. (AP Photo)
This still image taken from video shows a Catholic nun near a victim and an ambulance in Amatrice, central Italy, where a 6.1 earthquake struck just after 3:30 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. The quake was felt across a broad section of central Italy, including the capital Rome where people in homes in the historic center felt a long swaying followed by aftershocks. (AP Photo)
This still image taken from video shows rescuers recover a victim from a crumbled building in Amatrice, central Italy, where a 6.1 earthquake struck just after 3:30 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. The quake was felt across a broad section of central Italy, including the capital Rome where people in homes in the historic center felt a long swaying followed by aftershocks. (AP Photo)
A man reacts after a strong heathquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
Residents stand among damaged buildings after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
Residents and rescuers carry a victim from a damaged building after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
Residents stand neaxt to damaged buildings after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
Residents walk among damaged homes after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
A car lies under a damaged wall after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
Residents walk among damaged homes after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
A man stands on a damaged home after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
Two men walk on a damaged home after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
A damaged home is seen after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
A man stands on his damaged home after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
residents help each other among damaged buildings after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
A man carries a pram among damaged buildings after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
A resident is helped among damaged buildings after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
Rescuers and residents search for victims among damaged buildings after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
Rescuers help an injured victim among damaged buildings after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
Rescuers, with the help of a dog, search for victims in damaged buildings after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
Rescuers clear debris while searching for victims in damaged buildings after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
Rescuers search for victims in damaged buildings after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images

At least 38 people have been killed and 150 missing after a strong earthquake hit central Italy in the early hours of Wednesday morning with the Pope leading prayers for those affected.

Rescue crews raced to dig out survivors from the rubble in the two hardest hit towns of Amatrice and Accumoli near Rieti, some 80 miles north-east of Rome.

A magnitude 6.2 earthquake has struck central Italy, leaving numerous people dead, many more injured and total devastation across parts of central Italy. Graphic shows location of quake.
A magnitude 6.2 earthquake has struck central Italy, leaving numerous people dead, many more injured and total devastation across parts of central Italy. Graphic shows location of quake.

The epicentre was close to Accumoli with nearby Amatice reduced to rubble.

"The town isn't here anymore," Amatrice mayor Sergio Pirozzi said.

The magnitude 6 quake struck at 3.36am local time and was felt across a broad swathe of central Italy, including the capital, Rome, where residents felt a long swaying followed by aftershocks.

It was also felt beyond the Lazio region into Umbria and Le Marche on the Adriatic coast.

The Pope has offered his condolences to all those affected by the quake.

Pope Francis on Wednesday cancelled a speech he was to have given at his general audience and instead prayed with the crowd for victims and survivors of the quake.

"Hearing the mayor of Amatrice say that the town no longer exists and hearing that there are children among the victims, I am deeply saddened," he told tens of thousands of people who had gathered in St Peter's Square for his general audience.

Have you been caught up in the disaster? Contact us here.

The centre of Amatrice was devastated, with entire palazzos razed to the ground. Rocks and metal tumbled on to the streets and dazed residents huddled in piazzas as dozens of aftershocks continued into the early morning hours, some as strong as 5.1.

Rescuers help an injured victim among damaged buildings after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016.
Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
Rescuers help an injured victim among damaged buildings after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
A man carries a pram among damaged buildings after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
A resident is helped among damaged buildings after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
Rescuers and residents search for victims among damaged buildings after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
Rescuers, with the help of a dog, search for victims in damaged buildings after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
Rescuers clear debris while searching for victims in damaged buildings after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
Rescuers search for victims in damaged buildings after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images

"The whole ceiling fell but did not hit me," said resident Maria Gianni. "I just managed to put a pillow on my head and I wasn't hit, luckily, just slightly injured my leg."

As daylight dawned, residents, civil protection workers and even priests began digging out with shovels, bulldozers and their bare hands, trying to reach survivors. There was a sigh of relief as a woman was pulled out alive from one building, followed by a dog.

"We need chainsaws, shears to cut iron bars, and jacks to remove beams: everything, we need everything," civil protection worker Andrea Gentili told the Associated Press.

The devastation harked back to the 2009 quake that killed more than 300 people in and around L'Aquila, which sent emergency teams to help with the rescue on Wednesday.

The Italian geological service put the magnitude at 6.0. The US Geological Survey put the magnitude at 6.2 with the epicentre at Norcia, about 105 miles (170km) north-east of Rome, and with a relatively shallow depth of six miles (10km).

"I don't know what to say. We are living this immense tragedy," said the Rev Savino D'Amelio, an Amatrice parish priest. "We are only hoping there will be the least number of victims possible and that we all have the courage to move on."

The mayor of the quake-hit town of Accumoli, Stefano Petrucci, said at least six people had died there, including a family of four, and two others.

"There are deaths," he told state-run RaiNews24.

In Amatrice, the Ansa news agency reported that two bodies had been pulled from one building. The Rev Fabio Gammarota told Ansa another three were killed in a separate collapse.

Amatrice Mayor Pirozzi told state-run RAI radio and Sky TG24 that residents were buried under collapsed buildings, that the lights had gone out and that heavy equipment was needed to clear streets clogged with debris.

The office of Premier Matteo Renzi tweeted that heavy equipment was on its way.

In 2009, a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck in the same region and killed more than 300 people. The earlier earthquake struck in L'Aquila was about 55 miles (90km) south of the latest quake.

Residents walk among damaged homes after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016.
Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
Residents walk among damaged homes after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
Residents walk among damaged homes after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
A car lies under a damaged wall after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
A man stands on a damaged home after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
Two men walk on a damaged home after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
A damaged home is seen after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
A man stands on his damaged home after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
residents help each other among damaged buildings after a strong heartquake hit Amatrice on August 24, 2016. Central Italy was struck by a powerful, 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the early hours, which has killed at least three people and devastated dozens of mountain villages. Numerous buildings had collapsed in communities close to the epicenter of the quake near the town of Norcia in the region of Umbria, witnesses told Italian media, with an increase in the death toll highly likely. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images

A 1997 quake killed a dozen people in the area and severely damaged one of the jewels of Umbria, the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, filled with Giotto frescoes. The Franciscan friars who are the custodians of the basilica reported no immediate damage from Wednesday's earthquake.

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