A strong earthquake in central Italy reduced three towns to rubble while people slept early Wednesday.
There are reports that as many as 50 people were killed and hundreds injured as rescue crews raced to dig out survivors.
The toll was likely to rise as crews reached homes in more remote hamlets where the scenes were apocalyptic "like Dante's Inferno," according to one witness.
(Inferno is the first part of Dante Alighieri's 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy. It is followed by Purgatorio and Paradiso. The Inferno tells the journey of Dante through Hell, guided by the ancient Roman poet Virgil.)
"The town isn't here anymore," said Sergio Pirozzi, the mayor of Amatrice to AFP. "I believe the toll will rise."
The magnitude 6 quake struck at 3:36 a.m. (0136 GMT) and was felt across a broad swath of central Italy, including Rome, where residents felt a long swaying followed by aftershocks. The temblor shook the Lazio region and Umbria and Le Marche on the Adriatic coast.
See the images below:
|A street after the quake|
|The same street above before the quake|