‘Apocalyptic’: Italy rocked by two earthquakes leaving town of Ussita ‘finished’ and strong tremors in Rome

Italy was hit by two earthquakes in quick succession on Wednesday night, with mountain villages suffering extensive damage and the town of Ussita “finished”.

The epicentre of both earthquakes was near the town of Visso in the central Marche region, close to where nearly 300 people were killed by a devastating quake two months ago. The tremors were felt as far away as Rome, Venice and Naples.

Panic-stricken locals in Visso ran into the streets and piazzas of the town.

“The walls fell in on me,” said a woman who rushed out of her office.

“All the objects and books fell off the shelves. I ran down the stairs and outside it was all dust. People were screaming”.

Residents walk past rubble in the village of Visso, central Italy, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016 following an earthquake
Residents walk past rubble in the village of Visso, central Italy, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016 following an earthquake CREDIT: ANSA VIA AP

Although structural damage was extensive, only one person was reported to have been injured.

Gabriele Santamarianova, the mayor of the town of Serravalle del Chienti, said the quake felt “like bombs were falling”.

“We saw a cloud of dust, we don’t yet know what has fallen down. We’ll see once the sun comes up.”

The quakes hit not only the Marche region but the neighbouring regions of Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio.

Many locals rushed out into the streets as the earthquakes, which struck at 7.10pm local time and then 9.18pm, brought down houses and the facades of churches.

“It was an unheard-of violence. Many houses collapsed. Our town is finished,” Marco Rinaldi, the mayor of the village of Ussita, told Italian television.

“The facade of the church collapsed. By now I have felt many earthquakes. This is the strongest of my life. It was something terrible.” Calling it “apocalyptic,” he said: “People are screaming in the streets and now we are without lights.”

The first quake measured 5.4 magnitude while the second measured 6.0.

In Rome, centuries-old buildings shook, ceiling lights swayed and windows and doors rattled.

Italian authorities are still dealing with the effects of the August 24 quake, which all but destroyed the mountain villages of Amatrice, Accumoli, Arquata del Tronto and Pescara del Tronto.

The disaster claimed the lives of 297 people and left hundreds injured.

It caused an estimated four billion euros of damage, with 1,400 people still living in temporary accommodation.

“There is no electricity. There are bound to be house collapses. On top of this there are torrential rains,” said Mauro Falcucci, the mayor of the village of Castel Sant’Angelo, near the epicentre. “It’s tough. Really tough.”

Italy’s national geophysics institute said the latest quakes were linked to the August one, which was followed by thousands of aftershocks, some of them very powerful.

“Aftershocks can last for a long time, sometimes for months,” geologist Mario Tozzi said.

In villages and towns throughout the region, schools were to be closed on Thursday as a precaution, as engineers carried out structural checks.

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