Several killed in Italian quake

ROME – A strong earthquake rocked a large swathe of central Italy on Monday, causing houses, a church tower and other buildings to collapse in a mountainous region east of Rome.

The Civil Protection Department in Rome said it had received reports of people having been killed but that it had no figures itself. State television RAI said an elderly woman and a child were killed in a village east of Rome in the Abruzzo region.

Part of a university residence collapsed in the city of l’Aquila about 62 miles east of Rome but it was not clear if anyone was inside. The bell tower of a church in the center of the city also collapsed.

A number of people were reported to have been injured and others trapped under rubble in the city and outlying areas from the quake that measured 6.3 on the Richter scale — the strongest earthquake to hit Italy in years, officials said.

The quake struck shortly after 3:30 a.m. and was centered in the mountainous Abruzzo region east of Rome.

Television pictures showed rubble on a number of streets in l’Aquila and at least one modern house whose roof collapsed. The pictures also showed the rubble from the collapsed bell tower.

Residents in many parts of central Italy felt the quake and some ran out into the streets. Residents of Rome, which is rarely hit by seismic activity, were woken by the quake. Furniture rattled, lights swayed and car alarms went off.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake’s epicenter was believed to be some 60 miles from Rome and that its depth was 6.2 miles. The agency initially put the scale of the quake at 6.7 but later lowered it 6.3.

The quake was the latest and strongest in a series to hit the l’Aquila area on Sunday and Monday.

Earthquakes can be particularly dangerous in parts of Italy because some buildings are centuries-old.

Copyright 2009 Reuters.

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