A strong earthquake of 6.2 magnitude that struck central Italy around 3:30 a.m. local time on Wednesday claimed the lives of at least 37 people, including an elderly couple and two children. Around 150 people are reportedly missing.
A six-year-old child was recovered alive from under the debris. Several people were trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings, while others fled to the streets when the quake hit the country.
The quake caused serious damage to several towns and villages, the worst affected being Accumoli, Amatrice, Posta and Arquata del Tronto.
Read all about the devastation caused by the earthquake here
The elderly couple died at their house in Pescara del Tronto, while one other person died in Accumoli. Two bodies were retrieved from under the rubble of a collapsed building in Amatrice. The mountainous region of Amatrice is almost completely destroyed, according to media reports.
"Now that daylight has come, we see that the situation is even more dreadful than we feared with buildings collapsed, people trapped under the rubble and no sound of life," Accumoli Mayor Stefano Petrucci was quoted by Reuters as saying, adding that the main aim was to save as many lives as possible.
The Italian Earthquake Institute (INGV) reported 60 aftershocks within four hours after the first quake, Reuters reported.
Three helicopters and six vehicles have been deployed in the affected areas along with rescue efforts by Italy Civil Protection, CNN reported. A mobile convoy is also on its way to the quake-stricken areas to help set up mobile medical units. Patients are also being redirected to Rieti hospital since the hospital in Amatrice is severely damaged.
The earthquake reportedly caused damage to towns of Umbria, Lazio and Marche. The U.S. Geological Survey said that the quake struck Rieti, which is located near the Umbrian city of Norcia. No casualties have been reported in Norcia, but heritage buildings have been damaged.