Rescuers stood by to extricate potential victims trapped by rubble after two powerful earthquakes Wednesday struck central Italy about 50 miles north of the site of a deadly August quake that killed nearly 300 people.
As dawn broke in Italy, rescuers remained fearful of mudslides and even of risking bringing heavy equipment up the narrow roads which link the small towns, villages and hamlets which make up this hilly region of the country.
The two tremblors were followed by numerous small aftershocks, and one larger aftershock, measuring magnitude-4.3, which struck at 8:21 a.m. (2:21 a.m. ET) Thursday. There were no immediate reports of further damage resulting from that aftershock.
The second of the two Wednesday quakes — with a magnitude of 6.1 — was 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) north of Visso and 58 km (36 miles) from Perugia, the USGS reported.
Just a few hours earlier, a magnitude-5.5 quake struck the same region. The epicenter was about 9 kilometers away, south-southwest of the town of Visso. That quake hit at 7 p.m. (1 p.m. ET) between Perugia and Macerata, according to ANSA.
There have been no reports yet of injuries, although there was damage in Visso and another town, Campi, where the historic church, San Salvatore, was destroyed by the tremors — the first severely damaged the 15th century structure and the second finished it off.
CNN’s Barbie Nadeau, in Campi, said that there were constant, small aftershocks.
Streetlights, likely powered by generators, remained on in Campi, but the town’s houses remained dark. In many small towns, in the pre-dawn hours, there is little light, further hampering rescue efforts — rescuers are forced to listen for people calling for help.
The main square and the church in nearby Norcia, a couple of miles to the south, are badly damaged, but the church there is still standing.
In Campi, hundreds of people were sleeping in their cars, with blankets covering the windows. The cars are parked everywhere — streets, gas stations, parking lots. Some residents have taken their dogs with them in their cars.
Local media said one man had suffered a heart attack.
Residents were uncertain as to what might happen next, and expressed worry that another, bigger tremor, might cause even more damage.
The USGS said both earthquakes were shallow.
Reminders of August quake
Visso is about 110 miles northeast of Rome and 50 miles north of Amatrice, the small town that lost about 270 residents when a magnitude-6.2 quake hit August 24. Another 20 people were killed in nearby towns.
“We don’t have any reported victims, but we’re in the dark and under a downpour,” said Mauro Falcucci, the mayor of the small town of Castelsantangelo sul Nera, according to state news agency ANSA.
“We’re waiting for the Civil Protection Department to bring us lighting towers.”
Tommaso Della Longa, a spokesman for the Italian branch of the Red Cross, told CNN that after the first shock, many people left their homes and were outside when the second earthquake hit about two hours later.
Nadeau was in Rome when the quakes struck. “Incredible aftershock or earthquake felt in Testaccio in Rome. Wow,” she said on Twitter.
She said many of the towns in the area are small hamlets that won’t be reachable until daylight.
Video recorded by CNN affiliate Rai television showed a road to Visso that was largely blocked by a massive boulder. Cars were having to carefully drive around it. Several stone buildings in the town had been heavily damaged.
Civil protection spokesman Antonio Flippini told CNN that previously damaged buildings had suffered new collapses and that part of the Salaria highway in the Marche region near Amatrice have been closed over concerns of structural damage.
Della Longa said buildings that fell in the area have been unoccupied since the August quake. The area remains off-limits. Many people displaced by that quake have been forced to move once again.
Police have offered those living in tent camps the opportunity to stay farther away tonight as the rain falls.