Rome shaken as powerful earthquakes hit central Italy

Tremors felt from Perugia to Rome as strong aftershocks shake central Italy

The historic centre of Rome has been shaken by two strong earthquakes just months after a powerful tremor killed nearly 300 people in central Italy.

A quake measured at 6.0 magnitude by the U.S. Geological Survey struck about two hours after a first quake measuring 5.4 struck.

Both were strong enough to be felt more than 150 km south in Rome, where lamps swayed on the upper floors of building.

There have been reports of panicked residents leaving their apartments and rushing onto the streets while one resident - who lives near St Peter's Square - said she "felt the apartment shaking and the walls cracking."

Officials at the Foreign Ministry evacuated their building and a landslide forced a section of the Salaria highway north of Rome to close.

The epicentre of the 5.4-magnitude quake was Macerata, about 140 miles northeast of the capital, according to Italy's National Vulcanology Centre.

Tremors were felt from Perugia to Rome, and also in the town of L'Aquila - hit by an earthquake in 2009. 

There were reports of pieces of building falling and some power lines coming down but no immediate word of any injuries, said Ornella De Luca, spokeswoman for the civil protection agency.

The earthquake struck at 7.10pm local time, with the US Geological Survey (USGS) locating it at a relatively shallow depth of six miles.

The last quake to hit the area destroyed the hilltop village of Amatrice and other nearby towns, killing nearly 300 people.

USGS seismologist Paul Earle said today's earthquakes are actually aftershocks from that event.

He said this evening’s first event was 11 times weaker based on the energy released.