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Italy's strongest earthquake in over 30 years leaves 15,000 homeless

By By Brian Thompson, AccuWeather Meteorologist
November 02, 2016, 12:17:32 AM EDT

The strongest earthquake to hit Italy since 1980 struck on Sunday morning, damaging numerous buildings and injuring dozens of people.

The U.S. Geological Survey assigned the quake a preliminary magnitude of 6.6, with a depth of 10 km.

The earthquake occurred at 7:40 a.m. on Sunday, local time, and was centered 132 km (82 miles) northeast of Rome, near the town of Norcia.

The quake was felt across much of Italy. According to the Associated Press, it was felt as far north as Austria, and all the way down the Italian peninsula to the heel of the boot.

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According to the AP, buildings collapsed in some of the hardest-hit areas. One building that sustained major damage was the 14th century St. Benedict cathedral. At least 20 people were also reported injured, though there were no immediate reports of fatalities.

“Everything has been destroyed. The towns no longer exist,” said Aleandro Petrucci, the mayor of Arquata del Tronto.

The national civil protection agency said more than 15,000 required assistance and have taken refuge at hotels and shelters.

"I'm praying for the injured and the families who have suffered the most damage, as well as for rescue and first aid workers," Pope Francis said.

Several aftershocks have been reported since the initial quake with at least six having a magnitude of at least 4.0.

This area was hit by a 6.2-magnitude quake in August, which caused major damage and killed 290 people.

More recently, a magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck central Italy on Oct. 26.

Sunday's earthquake is the strongest one on record to strike Italy since the Irpinia earthquake in 1980. That earthquake measured a magnitude of 6.9 in 1980 and struck the southern portion of the country, killing over two thousand people.

"We will rebuild everything, the houses, the churches and the businesses," Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said. "Everything that needs to be done to rebuild these areas will be done.”

A road leading to Norcia is badly damaged from the earthquake. Twitter/@FrankPetrucci

Weather conditions through early this week should not hinder emergency operations or cleanup.

"The weather will be mainly dry across Italy early this week as high pressure settles in," AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rossio said. "However, a cold front may bring a few showers at midweek."

AccuWeather Meteorologist Jordan Root also contributed to this story.

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