At least 159 people have been killed after a powerful quake struck central Italy
Survivors of the devastating Italian earthquake have told of their shock and distress as they await news of loved ones.
At least 120 people are thought to have been killed and dozens more are missing after a 6.2-magnitude quake struck the centre of the country in the middle of the night.
The epicentre was at Norcia and the quake hit at a relatively shallow depth of six miles.
One of the worst affected areas was the nearby town of Amatrice, where entire blocks of buildings were destroyed.
Rocks and metal fell on to the streets in the centre and dazed residents sheltered in piazzas as more than 40 aftershocks hit the region in the early hours.
One woman, Maria Gianni, said: "The whole ceiling fell but did not hit me. I just managed to put a pillow on my head and I wasn't hit luckily, just slightly injured my leg."
Rescuers are in a desperate race against time to find survivors under the rubble, while more than 2,000 people have been left homeless.
People walk past a collapsed building in Amatrice | Photo: PA Images
A woman, sitting in front of her destroyed home with a blanket over her shoulders and too distraught to give her name, said she did not know what happened to her loved ones.
"It was one of the most beautiful towns of Italy and now there's nothing left. I don't know what we'll do," she said.
Paola Mancini, a patient at an Amatrice hospital, was woken up when her bed started shaking in the middle of the night and she heard a nurse shouting "Get out! Get out! Everybody out!"
Ms Mancini, 79, and 14 other patients evacuated the building and gathered in the street.
She was quoted by Corriere della Sera as saying: "It was a long, terrible jolt. We were afraid, we were paralysed with terror. I could hear crumbling all around me."
The mayor of Amatrice, Sergio Pirozzi, said: "The town isn't here anymore."
Another of the worst hit towns was Accumoli, where the mayor, Stefano Petrucci, said six people had died, including a family of four, and two others.
People sit on the side of a road as collapsed buildings are seen in the background | Photo: PA Images
In the remote mountain village of Illica, north of Amatrice, Guido Bordo said her sister and her husband were stuck under the rubble.
She said: "There's no sound from them, we only heard their cats. I wasn't here, but as soon as the quake happened I rushed here.
"They managed to pull my sister's children out, they're in hospital now."
Agostino Severo, a Rome resident visiting Illica, said: "We came out to the piazza and it looked like Dante's Inferno. People crying for help."
In Pescara del Tronto where the main road was covered in debris, residents were digging their neighbours out by hand as emergency crews had not yet arrived in force.
Photos taken from the air by regional firefighters showed the town essentially flattened.
In Arquata del Tronto, an 18-month-old girl was reportedly among the dead while her mother survived.