At Least 50 Killed in Italian Earthquake

ITALY (RPRN) 04/06/09-A powerful early morning earthquake has rocked central Italy, killing at least 50 people, including five children.Officials say the death toll is likely to rise significantly. Thousands of people have been left homeless.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi canceled a trip to Russia to go to the stricken region. He has declared a state of emergency, freeing up federal funds to deal with the crisis.

Italy’s Civil Protection Department says the quake was centered near the medieval town of L’Aquila, east of Rome, in the mountainous Abruzzo region.

Reuters news service reports older homes and buildings made of stone collapsed like straw houses.

Rescuers are working, through continuing aftershocks, to free people trapped under thousands of collapsed structures.

Authorities say a cathedral, a church dome and a university dormitory in L’Aquila are among the badly damaged buildings.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the quake registered a magnitude of 6.3 and was felt 100 kilometers away in Rome.

Monday’s earthquake occurred about five hours after a 4.6 magnitude quake shook Italy’s north central region near Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.