The quaint medieval town of L'Aquila in Central Italy 60 miles northeast of Rome, was leveled in an early morning earthquake that registered 6.3 on the Richter scale. At last count, more than 92 people were killed, 1500 injured and over 50,000 were left homeless, as a result of the devastating tremblor that stuck the area just past 3:30AM local time.
SkyNews reports: Rescuers have been digging bodies out from the collapsed ruins of dozens of houses and emergency services said the death toll was "bound to rise". Gianfranco Fini, speaker of Italy's lower house of parliament, said entire towns have been "virtually destroyed" with 15,000 buildings off limits.
Video from France 24.
Five people were also killed in the village of Castelnuovo but civil protection officials said they feared the figure would rise. Guido Bertolaso, head of the Italian Civil Defence, said: "Many, many buildings have collapsed and there are people trapped inside.
"Emergency services are travelling to the scene and we are working on rescuing people who are trapped.
The London Telegraph reports that Italian scientist, Giampaolo Giuliani, had earlier warned residents of imminent danger from the quake and called on residents to evacuate their homes. According to the Telegraph Mr. Giuliani issued the warnings, after a build-up of radon gas around the seismically active area suggested a major earthquake was imminent. Several tremors had been felt in the medieval city of L'Aquila, around 60 miles east of Rome, from mid-January onwards, and vans with loudspeakers had driven around the city spreading the warning. But instead of heeding Mr Giuliani's warnings, the local authorities reported him to police for "spreading alarm" and he was told to remove his findings from the internet.
Our prayers go out to the people struck by this horrible tragedy at this time.
(Images from SkyNews and The Telegraph)