Three strong earthquakes felt in Rome and central Italy

Schools and the Metro in Rome have been closed following the quakes

Three strong earthquakes felt in Rome and central Italy

People stand outside the closed Colosseo subway station following three earthquakes. Picture by Domenico Stinellis AP/Press Association Images

Three strong earthquakes have been felt in central Italy in the space of an hour, with people in Rome saying they experienced the tremors.

The first quake at around 10.30am local time on Wednesday measured a magnitude of 5.4 and hit the region north of Amatrice, around 62 miles north of Rome, the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre said.

A second quake with a magnitude of 5.7 hit the same area about 50 minutes later, and 10 minutes later a third was measured at a magnitude of 5.3.

The metro in Rome has been evacuated, rail services are suspended and schools closed following the second quake after people reported feeling tremors there.

Emergency services deployed helicopters to check the impact of the quakes and the national civil protection agency was assessing the damage in villages closest to the epicentre.

Antonio Tajani, an Italian politician who is president of the European Parliament, said tremors were "felt as far as Rome but it appears there are no victims".

Lina Mercantini, who lives in the village of Ceselli in the Umbrian region about 50 miles from the epicentre, said: "Everyone is outside. It's very cold and windy.

"This is totally unnerving. It's never ending. We are all shaking."

The quakes are the latest to hit the region after 300 people died in August when the town of Amatrice was flattened.

Two further quakes rattled the region in October, with the most powerful measuring 6.5 magnitude.

The latest follows 36 hours of continuous snowfall in areas close to Amatrice and another badly-hit mountain town, Norcia.

As a result of last year's quakes many residents have been evacuated to temporary accommodation outside the earthquake-prone zone along Italy's mountainous spine.

Much of Italy's land mass and some of its surrounding waters are prone to seismic activity.

Italy straddles the Eurasian and African tectonic plates, making it vulnerable to seismic activity when they move.