Italy earthquakes: Strong tremors shake central region

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Media captionThe Church of San Sebastiano stands amidst damaged houses in Castelsantangelo sul Nera, Italy.

Two strong earthquakes have hit central Italy, damaging buildings and injuring dozens of people.

A 5.5-magnitude quake struck at 19:10 (17:10 GMT) near Visso in Macerata province, followed two hours later by a 6.1 magnitude tremor in the same area.

Emergency teams have worked through the night. In August an earthquake killed about 300 people south of Visso.

There are few reports of serious injuries but bad weather has been hampering efforts to assess the damage.

Visso is 70km (45 miles) from Amatrice, which was badly damaged in the 6.2 magnitude quake in August.

Image caption Some buildings in central Visso were damaged

Wednesday's earthquakes were felt across central Italy, including in the capital, Rome, where buildings shook and doors and windows rattled.

"Tens" of people were hurt, but only four people suffered serious injuries, Italy's civil protection chief Fabrizio Curcio said.

The second earthquake was considerably stronger than the first and numerous smaller aftershocks have occurred. One witness told Italian TV he saw part of a building collapse in front of him.

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Image caption Older buildings are reported to have collapsed in several villages
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Image caption Rubble from one of Camerino's collapsed buildings filled the street

The town of Camerino is thought to have been badly damaged, and one resident told the BBC: "Everyone is leaving Camerino by foot or car to seek safety. Two churches are destroyed and many houses [have] fallen."

In Campo, near Norcia in the Umbria region, the late 15th century San Salvatore church collapsed. It had been weakened by the earthquake in August.

There are also reports of downed power lines, damage to historic buildings and a landslide on a main road north of Rome.

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Image caption Two months ago Amatrice was devastated by an earthquake

The first earthquake, 7km south-west of Visso, was relatively shallow, at a depth of 9km (nearly six miles). The second, at 21:18 local time, was 2km northwest of Visso, at a depth of 10km.

These tremors were linked to the August earthquake, Italian officials said.

"Aftershocks can last for a long time, sometimes for months," AFP news agency quoted Mario Tozzi of Italy's National Institute of Geophysics as saying.

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