More than 90 people are feared dead and tens of thousands are homeless after a magnitude 6.3 earthquake rocked the mountainous Abruzzo region of Italy today.
The temblor struck at 3:32 a.m. local time (9:32 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time Sunday) 60 miles (95 kilometers) northeast of Rome, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The New York Times is reporting that it killed 92 people and left the homes of as many as 50,000 others in ruins.
“Some towns in the area have been virtually destroyed in their entirety,” said Gianfranco Fini, speaker of the lower house of Parliament, according to the newspaper.
The quake occurred in the Apennines, a mountain belt that runs from the Gulf of Taranto in southern Italy to the Po basin in the northern part of the country. It was caused by northeastward movement of a microplate under the Adriatic Sea, which pulls apart the rocks that make up the Apennine chain, according to Roger Musson, a seismologist at the British Geological Survey.
Twelve years ago, 11 people were killed, more than 100 injured and 80,000 homes were destroyed when a magnitude 6.0 quake hit 53 miles (85 kilometers) north of today’s temblor, according to the USGS. That quake was part of a series of eight tremblors (all measuring greater than 5.0 on the Richter scale) called the Umbria–Marche seismic sequence that struck between September and November 1997. Another quake in the region in 1915 some 40 kilometers south of the one today killed about 30,000 people, making it one of the deadliest in Europe in the 20th century, Musson said in a statement.
For more on earthquakes—and what causes them—read our In-Depth Report.