At least 159 people were killed in a magnitude 6.2 earthquake that struck central Italy early Wednesday as most residents were sleeping in their homes.
Officials say the towns of Amatrice and Accumoli appear to be the hardest hit by the quake, which struck at 3:36 a.m. local time. Workers searched for residents buried under the rubble of collapsed homes and buildings.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who said he plans to travel today to the affected area, thanked the rescue workers and vowed a sustained national effort to find any survivors and assist the injured and homeless.
“No family, no city, no hamlet will be left alone,” he said.
The central Apennine region, a mountainous area of central Italy, has had several significant temblors, according to the USGS.
In April 2009, a 6.3 magnitude quake near the town of L’Aquila killed at least 295 people, injured more than 1,000 and left at least 55,000 homeless.
In September 1997, a 6.0 magnitude earthquake in the area killed 11 people and injured more than 100, destroying approximately 80,000 homes in the Marche and Umbria regions.
On January 13, 1915, a magnitude 6.7 earthquake near Avezzano killed approximately 32,000 people.