A magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck central Italy early Wednesday, with reports of fatalities and significant damage surfacing quickly in its aftermath.
Officials say the towns of Accumoli and Amatrice appear to be the hardest hit by the quake, which struck at 3:36 a.m. local time as most residents slept inside their homes.
At least 38 people have been killed, according to Italy’s Civil Protection Department.
Italian Premier Matteo Renzi announced plans Wednesday to travel to the affected area.
Renzi thanked rescue workers who continued searching through the rubble and vowed a sustained, national effort to find any survivors and assist the wounded and homeless.
“No family, no city, no hamlet will be left alone,” he said.
The damage was so extensive in the town of Amatrice that its mayor told the AP: “The town isn’t here anymore.”
Tremors were felt as far away as Rome, more than 100 miles away from the quake’s epicenter.
The mayor of Amatrice told ANSA that a large portion of that town had been destroyed and that residents had been buried under the rubble of collapsed homes and buildings.
Sergio Pirozzi told state-run RAI radio and Sky TG24 that he needs heavy equipment to clear rubble-clogged streets to get to the injured, the Associated Press reported.
Asked if there were any dead he said: “Look there are houses that aren’t here anymore. I hope we get some help,” according to the AP.
The mayor of the nearby town of Accumoli reported one family of four found under debris with no apparent signs of life, as well as one other possible victim.
Fabio Curcio, head of Italy’s Civil Protection Department, called it a “serious earthquake” that resulted in “wounded” and “serious damage,” ANSA reported.
The Civil Protection Department labeled the earthquake as “severe,” as reports of power and communications outages and ruptured gas lines added to the difficulties facing emergency responders.
This tweet from Italy’s fire and rescue service shows an aerial view of the devastation in one of the hardest-hit areas.
The quake was felt across four regions of central Italy: Lazio, Umbria, Abruzzo and Marche.
The U.S. State Dept. urged Americans in the area to contact their loved ones.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) confirmed the quake’s location and its magnitude.
The central Apennine region, a mountainous area of central Italy, has seen several significant temblors in the past, according to the USGS.
In April 2009, 6.3 magnitude quake near the town of L’Aquila killed at least 295, injured over 1,000 and left at least 55,000 homeless.
In September 1997, a 6.0 magnitude earthquake in the area killed 11 and injured over 100, destroying approximately 80,000 homes in the Marche and Umbria regions.
On January 13, 1915, a magnitude 6.7 earthquake near Avezzano killed approximately 32,000 people.