At least 247 people are dead and scores more injured after a magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck central Italy earlier this morning.

The quake struck just after 3.30am local time and was felt across a broad section of central Italy, including the capital Rome.

The quake caused serious damage to a number of towns and villages, but did seem to have hit heavily populated areas.

First images of damage showed debris in the street and some collapsed buildings in towns and villages that dot much of the Umbrian countryside.

The hardest-hit towns were reported as Amatrice, Accumoli and Norcia.

The mayor of Amatrice near Rieti, Sergio Pirozzi, told state-run RAI radio and Sky TG24 that people were buried under collapsed buildings, the lights had gone out and heavy equipment was needed to clear streets covered with debris.
“The town isn’t here any more,” he said.

The Italian earthquake institute reported 60 aftershocks in the four hours after the initial quake.