A magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck central Italy early Wednesday, with reports of collapsed buildings in the mountainous town of Amatrice and tremors as far away as Rome.
The earthquake hit about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) southeast of Norcia at 3:36 a.m., according to the United States Geological Survey.
Michael Gilroy, who was on the second story of a three-floor building in Montepulciano, said he felt the tremors.
“It felt like the bed was on rollers,” he said.
“It was initially very confusing. I’m from California and had a sense of what it may be. And we ran out to the main area and the chandelier was swaying back and forth. At that point, we knew we had to get out of the building as fast as we can.”
Gilroy, his girlfriend and other guests of the hotel are standing outside in a clear area.
“We’re going to wait outside, wait for daylight and see what happens from there.”
About an hour after the earthquake, a 5.5-magnitude aftershock hit just 4 kilometers northeast of Norcia.
Although the extent of damage and injuries was not immediately clear, the earthquake could be devastating. Several buildings collapsed in the mountain town of Amatrice, according to CNN affiliate RAI.
‘A very shallow earthquake’
“This was an earthquake … that is considered a very shallow earthquake,” said Jessica Turner of the USGS.
“At that shallowness and magnitude of 6.2, we’re going to expect lots of aftershocks for next several hours and maybe the next several days.”
Landslides are likely, because the earthquake struck in a mountainous area, she said.
The USGS estimated that significant casualties are likely and that economic loss could be extensive.
“Overall, the population in this region resides in structures that are a mix of vulnerable and earthquake resistant construction,” according to USGS’ initial estimate on economic loss.
It cited that building types tend to be un-reinforced brick with mud and concrete frame with infill construction.
“Based on the estimate we have, we could be looking at very significant losses,” Rafael Abreu, a USGS geophysicist told CNN. “We can see several casualties related to this event.”
Buildings were damaged in Ascoli Piceno, a town east of Norcia., according to Italian news agency ANSA. Many calls to firefighters have been made following the earthquake.
Deadly earthquakes have struck Italy in recent years.
In May 2012, a pair of earthquakes in northern Italy killed dozens of people. In April 2009, an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.3 hit central Italy, killing 295. The earthquake Wednesday hit in an area close to the 2009 earthquake.