Image: an earlier earthquake in Italy caused hundreds of deaths and massive damage
Italy was shaken awake by another powerful earthquake Sunday, toppling ancient buildings weakened by recent temblors and causing some injuries — but no immediate loss of life.
Residents rushed into piazzas and streets after being roused from bed at 7:40 a.m. local time (2:40 a.m. ET) by the 6.6-magnitude quake — among the strongest to strike the country in nearly 36 years.
It rattle a country still recovering from Wednesday's double quake and August's temblor that left almost 300 dead.
Nuns rushed out of their church in the central town of Norcia as the clock tower appeared about to crumble In Rieti, hospital patients fled into the street and and huddled outside under blankets.
The USGS initially measured the quake at 7.1 but revised it down to 6.6. The European-Mediterranean Seismological Center put the magnitude at 6.6 or 6.5 with an epicenter about 100 miles northeast of Rome.
The country's Civil Protection agency said in a news release that the epicenter was located between Macerata and Perugia, close to the towns of Castelsantangelo, Norcia and Preci that were most affected by Wednesday's quakes.
Monks in Norica, who have been raising money to fix up their centuries-old monastery by brewing their own beer, said the building — weakened by recent temblors — had finally been destroyed in Sunday's quake.
"It's as if the whole city fell down," Norcia city assessor Giuseppina Perla told the ANSA news agency. The city's ancient walls suffered damage, as did another famous Norcia church, St. Mary Argentea, known for its 15th century frescoes.
The mayor of Ussita said 90 percent of houses in that town had been destroyed, La Reppublica reported.
Many residents in affected areas still were sleeping in cars or had been evacuated to shelters or hotels in other areas following last week's jolts, leaving the most quake-prone historic centers largely empty.
In Rome, cracks appeared and bits of the ceiling fell in the Basilica San Paolo, a historic church and major tourist draw, news agency ANSA reported.
"It is since 1980 that we have had to deal with an earthquake of this magnitude," Fabrizio Curcio, the head of Italy's Civil Protection agency, said.
Curcio was referring to a 6.9 magnitude quake in a different region that includes Naples that killed some 3,000 people and caused extensive damage in November 1980.
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