Photo taken on Aug. 24, 2016 shows damaged houses after the earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy. The death toll in a strong earthquake in central Italy has risen to 38, authorities said Wednesday. The 6.0 magnitude earthquake hit the city of Rieti at 3:32 a.m. Wednesday (0132 GMT), with a shallow depth of 4.2 km, according to the National Institute of Volcanology and Seismology. (Xinhua/Jin Yu)
ROME, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) -- The death toll in a strong earthquake in central Italy has risen to 38, authorities said Wednesday.
The 6.0 magnitude earthquake hit the city of Rieti at 3:32 a.m. Wednesday (0132 GMT), with a shallow depth of 4.2 km, according to the National Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.
Several powerful aftershocks followed, said the agency.
The temblor was strongly felt across the Lazio region and in Rome, the capital of the country.
Amatrice and Accumuli, two small towns in the Rieti province, were among the hardest hit, local media reported. Sergio Pirozzi, mayor of Amatrice, told local media that "most of the town is gone."
Ten died in the Marche villages of Arquata and Pescara del Tronto and 28 lives were lost in the Lazio villages of Accumoli and Amatrice.
"Unfortunately, we expect the number of victims to rise as day breaks," Accumuli mayor Stefano Petrucci said.
Rescue teams and citizens were at work in the early morning, digging to find survivors as voices of people trapped under rubble could be heard, Ansa news agency reported.
Italy's Civil Protection Agency described the earthquake as "severe."
Civil Protection chief Fabrizio Curcio told a press conference in Rome early Wednesday that the earthquake could be compared to the strong earthquake that hit the city of L'Aquila in 2009, which left more than 300 people dead and thousands displaced.
The national emergency fund has allocated 234 million euros as immediate aid to earthquake-stricken towns and villages in central Italy, according to the economy ministry.
L'Aquila Mayor Massimo Cialente said 250 temporary homes built after the 2009 earthquake were available for the newly displaced. The Rieti provincial chapter of Italian blood donation charity AVIS has issued a call for people to donate blood for the injured.