Two strong earthquakes have hit central Italy, damaging buildings and sending scared residents into the streets. A 5.5-magnitude quake struck at 1910 local time (1710 GMT) near Visso in Macerata province, officials said.
It was followed two hours later by a 6.1 magnitude tremor in the same area. Several people were hurt, but there were no immediate reports of deaths.
The quakes come two months after a powerful earthquake struck slightly to the south, killing 298 people.
The 6.2 magnitude quake, on 24 August, toppled buildings in Amatrice and villages in the mountainous region around the town, which is just 70km (45 miles) from Visso.
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 reported hurt, but only four people suffered serious injuries, Italy’s civil protection chief Fabrizio Curcio said.
The Amira News Katya Adler, in Rome, says that emergency services in the affected areas are still assessing the situation.
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.
The town of Camerino is thought to have been badly damaged, although the full extent of damage will not become apparent until after the darkness lifts on Thursday morning.
One resident told the Amira News: “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.
“It was a very strong earthquake, apocalyptic,” Marco Rinaldi, mayor of Ussita to the east of Visso, told Italy’s Ansa news agency, referring to the second earthquake.
“People are screaming on the street and now we are without lights.”
Schools in the region will remain closed on Thursday, our correspondent reports.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is on his way to Rome, local media (in Italian) say.
The first earthquake, 7km south-southwest of Visso, was relatively shallow, at a depth of 9km (nearly six miles).
The second, at 2118 local time, was 2km north-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.