A major earthquake measuring a magnitude of 6.6 has struck central Italy.
The quake hit some 40 miles east-southeast of Perugia, in the country’s Umbria region, on Sunday morning.
There have been some reports of a ‘dozen’ people suffering minor injuries and one person seriously injured but nobody is thought to have died in the tremor.
The epicentre of the quake was just four miles north of the ancient town of Norcia, which has a population of around 5,000 people but tremors were felt as far away as Rome and Venice.
The world famous Basilica of St Benedict in Norcia, the birthplace of a Catholic saint, and other buildings have been destroyed, with the streets of the town now covered in rubble from the tremor.
Television images showed nuns rushing out of their church and into the main piazza in Norcia as the clock tower appeared about to crumble.
The United States Geological Survey initially recorded the quake as a 7.1 magnitude, but have since revised it back to 6.6.
The quake set dogs barking in the largely-abandoned towns of Castelsantagelo, Preci and Visso, where residents had left their homes to sleep in cars or moved to the coast after another quake last week.
Marco Rinaldi, the mayor of Ussita, one of the pretty mountain villages hit by the both quakes said: ‘Everything collapsed. I can see columns of smoke, it’s a disaster, a disaster.
Italy’s civil protection department said there were ‘checks underway in all the towns affected by this morning’s quake to determine whether there has been any damage to people or buildings.’
Italian President Sergio Mattarella who is currently on a diplomatic visit to Israel said that “These are sad moments for Italy. In August there were many casualties and many beautiful towns and homes were destroyed. We are committed at ensuring that a speedy recovery will be soon to follow this time.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel is willing to assist Italy in whatever it needs in the aftermath of the earthquake.