The worst earthquake to hit Italy in years has devastated the medieval city of L’Aquila and surrounding villages.
Hundreds were waiting for treatment in L’Aquila’s main hospital. Some reports said doctors had been forced to treat patients in the streets. With survivors in shock, search and rescue teams are trying to find those still buried in the rubble. The quake struck at around 3.30 this morning. Its epicentre was directly below L’Aquila. At least five children are known to be among the victims. Up to 10,000 buildings may have been damaged, with up to 50,000 people now homeless. Part of a university residence and a hotel collapsed as did the bell tower of a church in the city centre. Cars were buried in the debris. Local bridges and highways have been closed as a precaution. The quake was the latest and strongest in a series to hit the L’Aquila area on Sunday and early this morning. It woke residents of Rome, which is rarely hit by seismic activity. Hospitals in L’Aquila have appealed for help from doctors and nurses throughout Italy where earthquakes can be particularly dangerous because some buildings are centuries old. As aftershocks continued, the Vatican said Pope Benedict was praying for victims.