At least 247 people were killed and hundreds more were injured Wednesday after a magnitude 6.2 earthquake and a series of aftershocks struck several towns in central Italy, Italian authorities said.
Here's what we know:
When did this happen?
The 6.2. magnitude earthquake struck central Italy, near Rieti, shortly after 3:30 a.m. local time Wednesday and was followed by several aftershocks.
What areas were hardest-hit?
The hardest-hit towns were Amatrice and Accumoli near Rieti, about 80 miles northeast of Rome, with the regions of Umbria, Lazio and Marche feeling the worst effects too.
“Half of the town doesn’t exist anymore,” Sergio Perozzi, mayor of Amatrice, told Italian television.
How many people were killed?
At least 247 people are dead and hundreds more are injured.
There was no immediate breakdown of the death toll, but the Italian news agency ANSA reported at least 35 dead in Amatrice, 11 in Accumoli, near Rieti, and 17 in the province of Ascoli Piceno, which includes Pescara del Tronto. Renzi reported 35 dead in Le Marche.
Some homes collapsed on residents as they slept. With people trapped in the the rubble the death toll is likely to rise. Rescue crews are racing to dig out survivors in remote areas. Police near the town of Ascoli said they could hear cries for help from under the rubble but lack the heavy equipment to move the rocks, according the RAI radio.
Were there aftershocks?
The Italian earthquake institute (INGV) reported 60 aftershocks in the four hours following the first quake, the strongest at 5.5.
Are earthquakes common in the area?
In 2009, a 6.3-magnitude earthquake in the same region killed more than 300 people. Fabrizio Curcio, the head of Italy's civil protection agency, said the quake was on par with the L'Aquilla quake.
Since Italy sits on two fault lines, it has gained a reputation as one of the most earthquake-prone countries in Europe.
Myanmar experienced an earthquake on Wednesday, too. Were they related?
No. U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist John Bellinni said the two quakes were in two different seismic zones. A 6.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Myanmar, over 5,000 miles away from Italy, and killed at least 3 people.
Bellinni added that it is not that unusual to have two quakes of at least 6-magnitude on the same day.
What should U.S. travelers do?
The U.S. Embassy has restricted all but essential official travel to the area and recommends that U.S. citizens defer travel in these areas as well.