A quake with a magnitude of 6.2 struck Italy in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Italy's civil protection agency described the quake as “severe”, and several deaths have been reported. For live updates, follow our live blog.
Where was the quake?
The first earthquake struck at 3.36am in Norcia, a town south of Perugia, Umbria, at a very shallow 10km depth, and was followed by a 5.4 magnitude aftershock an hour later. Tremors were felt in Rome too.
Deaths were reported in villages located in the mountains between Lazio and Marche; Amatrice, Accumoli and Arquata del Tronto.
How many are hurt?
The total number of deaths and injuries will not become clear until later on; many people are still trapped in collapsed buildings. Rescue workers and emergency services are working to help residents but in some of the affected towns, access roads are blocked by the rubble.
At least 247 people have been officially confirmed dead so far; ten in Arquata del Tronco and the remaining deaths in Accumoli and Amatrice.
Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
How long will it take for the towns to recover?
It will take some time before we know the full extent of the damage, but it is already clear that this is a major disaster that will take a long time to recover from. The mayor of Amatrice has said “three quarters of the town is gone” and called the earthquake “a tragedy”.
L'Aquila, which was struck by an earthquake that killed over 300 people seven years ago, has still not fully recovered. Almost all of the town's suburbs have been rebuilt thanks to €12 billion in relief funds, but the old town centre will not be rebuilt until 2019.
How common are earthquakes in Italy?
Italy has two fault lines, making it one of the most tectonically active countries in Europe, and minor tremors occur relatively frequently – major quakes like Wednesday's, however, are much less usual.
In general, the more shallow the quakes are, the more destructive they are. The fault lines mean that Italy is also vulnerable to volcanic activity, with Mount Vesuvius near Naples and Mount Etna on Sicily both active volcanoes.
What can I do to help?
If you are directly affected or have family in the area, Italy's civil protection agency has activated an emergency number – 800 840 840. Facebook has also activated its Safety Check for those in the area to mark themselves as 'safe'.
If you are close by, hospitals have asked for blood donations from all blood types.