Central Italy rocked by 6.6 magnitude earthquake

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ROME, (AP) — The Latest on the powerful earthquake that has rocked already stricken central and southern Italy (all times local):
12:40 a.m.
The powerful earthquake that shook central and southern Italy has forced the temporary closure of some of Rome’s most important tourist sites.
The Vatican’s St. Paul Outside the Walls basilica was closed for several hours on Sunday after some plaster fell, but was later reopened.
Vatican firefighters inspected St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican’s other basilicas but found no hazards.
The presidential palace also was closed so authorities could check for damage.
Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi canceled visits to City Hall as a precautionary measure.
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12:30 p.m.
Pope Francis is praying for people affected by Italy’s latest earthquake and the people who are offering help.
The crowds in St. Peter’s Square interrupted Francis with applause when he mentioned the quake during his weekly Sunday blessing.
He said: “I’m praying for the injured and the families who have suffered the most damage, as well as for rescue and first-aid workers.”
Francis travelled earlier this month to meet with survivors of an Aug. 24 quake that killed nearly 300 people in the same regions struck by Sunday’s quake.
He stopped in all the hard-hit towns in an eight-hour road trip to offer his prayers and solidarity.

In this image made from video, priests and nuns escaped from their church join residents in a square in front of a damaged church in Norcia, Italy, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016 after a powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 rocked central and southern Italy following a week of temblors left thousands homeless. (Sky Italia via AP)
In this image made from video, priests and nuns escaped from their church join residents in a square in front of a damaged church in Norcia, Italy, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016 after a powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 rocked central and southern Italy following a week of temblors left thousands homeless. (Sky Italia via AP)

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11:30 a.m.
A Catholic Church leader in one of the two regions where another earthquake has caused buildings to collapse is advising parish priests to avoid holding Mass inside churches.
Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti told priests in the Umbria region to hold Mass outdoors following the Sunday morning earthquake as well as on All Saint’s Day on Tuesday, a holiday on which Catholic’s remember the dead.
The news agency ANSA said Bassetti, head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Umbria, made the decision after consulting with the head of the region.
The earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 has damaged historic churches in the town of Norcia, including the 14th century St. Benedict cathedral in one of the city’s main piazza.
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The earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 that rocked Italy on Sunday morning is believed to be the strongest quake to strike the country since 1980.
A 6.9-magnitude quake in southern Campania that year killed some 3,000 people and caused extensive damage.
The Apennine region of central Italy, located along a major fault line, has been the site of dozens of significant earthquakes since then.
A 6.1-magnitude earthquake on Aug. 24 quake killed nearly 300 people and flattened entire villages.
Officials have blamed shoddy construction for the comparatively high death toll from the August quake. The hilltop town of Amatrice, in particular, suffered significant damage, including in newly constructed buildings.
To date, Italy’s deadliest quake in recent history remains the 1908 Messina quake that killed tens of thousands of people.
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10:10 a.m.
The head of Italy’s civil protection agency says there are no immediate reports of deaths after an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 struck regions already damaged by previous quakes.
Fabrizio Curcio said some people suffered injuries as numerous buildings that had resisted previous temblors in August and last week collapsed. He did not provide details on the nature or extent of the injuries.
Curcio says the agency is using helicopters to tend to the injured and to assess damage.
He says 1,300 people displaced on Wednesday by a pair of powerful aftershocks to an August quake that killed nearly 300 had been evacuated to the coast in recent days and that the operation would continue.
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9:25 a.m.
The ancient city of Norcia, famed for its Benedictine monastery and its cured meats, is one of the locations hardest-hit by the latest earthquake to rock Italy.
Eyewitnesses said the St. Benedict cathedral, the 14th century cathedral in one of the city’s main piazza, crumbled in the Sunday morning quake and only its facade remains standing. Priests prayed in the piazza amid the rubble.
Norcia city assessor Giuseppina Perla tells the ANSA news agency, “It’s as if the whole city fell down.”
The U.S. Geological Service says the earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 was centered 6 kilometers (3 miles) north of Norcia.
The city’s ancient walls suffered damage, as did another famous Norcia church, St. Mary Argentea, known for its 15th century frescoes.
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9:15 a.m.
Emergency workers are racing to determine if any people have been killed or injured in the latest earthquake to rock central and southern Italy.
The Sunday morning quake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 was centered in a mountainous area straddling the central Italy regions of Umbria and Marche.
The head of the civil protection authority in the March region, Cesare Spuri, says there have been reports of buildings collapsing in many cities.
A pair of powerful quakes on Wednesday, technically aftershocks from an August earthquake that killed nearly 300 people, may have helped save lives on Sunday.
Many people still were sleeping in cars or had been evacuated to shelters or hotels in other areas following those strong jolts, leaving the most quake-prone historic centers largely empty of residents.
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8:00 a.m.
A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 has rocked central and southern Italy after a week of temblors that have left thousands homeless.
The European-Mediterranean Seismological Center put the magnitude at 6.6 or 6.5 with an epicenter 132 kilometers northeast of Rome and 67 kilometers east of Perugia, near the epicenter of last week’s temblors. It struck at 7:40 a.m.