Aftershocks hit Italy just months after deadly earthquake

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A pair of powerful aftershocks have shaken central Italy just two months after an earthquake killed nearly 300 people.

The first quake carried a magnitude of 5.4, but the second one was even stronger, with a preliminary magnitude of 6.1 according to the German Research Centre for Geosciences.

The US Geological survey put the magnitude at 6.0 and said the epicentre was in Visso, where buildings crumbled into the street.

Italy aftershocks
(Matteo Crocchioni/ANSA/AP)

Two people were injured in the Visso area, but otherwise there were no other immediate reports of victims, said Italy's civil protection chief, Fabrizio Curcio.

Old churches crumbled and other buildings were damaged, though many of them were in zones that were declared off-limits after the quake on August 24 that flattened parts of three towns.

"We're without power, waiting for emergency crews," said Mauro Falcucci, the mayor of Castelsantangelo sul Nera, near the epicentre.

He said: "We can't see anything. It's tough. Really tough."

Italy aftershocks
(Matteo Crocchioni/ANSA/AP)

Italy's national vulcanology centre said the first quake struck at 7.10pm local time with an epicentre in the Macerata area, near Perugia in the quake-prone Apennine Mountain chain. The US Geological Survey put the epicentre near Visso and said it had a depth of six miles.

The second aftershock struck two hours later at 9.18pm with a similar depth.

Experts say even relatively modest quakes that have shallow depths can cause significant damage because the seismic waves are closer to the surface. But seismologist Gianluca Valensise said a six-mile depth is within the norm for an Apennine temblor.

Italy earthquake in August
(Antonio Calanni/AP/PA)

Wednesday's temblors were felt from Perugia in Umbria to the capital Rome to the central Italian town of L'Aquila, which was struck by a deadly quake in 2009.

A section of a major state highway north of Rome, the Salaria, was closed near Arquata del Tronto as a precaution because of a quake-induced landslide, said a spokeswoman for the civil protection agency, Ornella De Luca.

In Rome, some 145 miles south-west from the epicentre, centuries-old palazzi shook and officials at the Foreign Ministry evacuated the building.

The August 6.2 quake was five times bigger than Wednesday's and was 11 times stronger based on energy released.