A 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck central Italy on Wednesday, destroying parts of popular vacation spots in the mountainous zone.
Reports say as many as 159 people were killed, according to the Associated Press. Rescue crews were working to free people from the rubble.
Among the affected areas: the villages of Pescara del Tronto, Accumoli and Amatrice.
Geologists say the earthquake was caused by the movement of the African Plate toward Europe. The accumulated tension of the under-surface rock erupts into tremors.
“It’s terrible, I’m 65-years-old and I have never experienced anything like this, small tremors, yes, but nothing this big. This is a catastrophe,” said Amatrice resident Giancarlo, quoted Reuters.
Rescuers in one of the hardest-hit towns, Amatrice, pulled several people out of the debris, including a young girl. The injured were flowing into hospitals.
“I remember hearing something, a loud noise, and then hiding under my bed,” said Mariana Lleshi, a Catholic nun in Amatrice, reported the Washington Post. “I was screaming, and I got out and started running when the ceiling started coming down.”