Two powerful quakes hit Italy near site of deadly August quake

Story highlights

Second earthquake more powerful than the first

Video from Italian TV shows stone buildings that fell

Campi, Italy CNN  — 

Two powerful earthquakes Wednesday struck central Italy about 50 miles north of the site of a deadly August quake that killed nearly 300 people, the US Geological Survey said.

The second quake – 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. The first quake hit at 7 p.m. (1 p.m. ET) between Perugia and Macerata, according to ANSA.

This part of Italy is full of narrow roads linking small stone villages. Rescuers are fearful of mudslides and even of risking bringing heavy equipment up the narrow roads.

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.

A completely destroyed house in the small town of Visso in central Italy after a 5.9 earthquake destroyed part of the town.

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.

The damaged post office in Visso, central Italy following the quake.

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.

Residents carry some of their belongings through Visso.

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.”

A child sleeps in a secured area of Visso after earthquakes rocked central Italy.

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.

The Church of San Sebastiano stands amid damaged houses in Castelsantangelo sul Nera, Italy, following a pair of strong aftershocks that shook central Italy late Wednesday.

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.

CNN’s Barbie Nadeau reported from Campi and James Masters reported and wrote in London.