Earthquake shakes central Italy, tremors felt in Rome

A 6.2-magnitude earthquake hit southeast of Norcia, Italy, according to the United States Geological Survey.

The earthquake struck about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from the town of Norcia at 3:36 a.m. local time. The tremor also was felt in Rome.

About an hour after the earthquake, a 5.5-magnitude aftershock hit just 4 kilometers northeast of Norcia.

Although the extent of damage and injuries was not immediately clear, the earthquake could be devastating.

The USGS estimated that significant casualties are likely and that economic loss could be extensive.

“Overall, the population in this region resides in structures that are a mix of vulnerable and earthquake resistant construction,” according to USGS’ initial estimate on economic loss.

It cited that building types tend to be un-reinforced brick with mud and concrete frame with infill construction.

“Based on the estimate we have, we could be looking at very significant losses,” Rafael Abreu, a USGS geophysicist told CNN. “We can see several casualties related to this event.”

“We have a 35% probability of seeing between a hundred to a thousand casualties. This is very preliminary.”

Italian news agency ANSA reported that there were damages to buildings in Ascoli Piceno, a town east of Norcia. Many calls to firefighters have been made following the earthquake in the Umbria region, according to ANSA.

Deadly earthquakes have struck Italy in recent years.

In May 2012, a pair of earthquakes in northern Italy killed dozens of people. In April 2009, an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.3 hit central Italy, killing 295.