After the quake in Sicily during the Etna's lava cracks growing two days ago, a 5.4-magnitude quake struck today at 11:33 a.m. in the middle of Italy, knocking out phone service, which made information difficult to obtain. It was followed by two smaller shocks. In each case the epicenter was also in Campobasso, a city close to the village, 140 miles southeast of Rome.
About 70 percent of the homes in a small area hit hardest by the quake were damaged, many with collapsed roofs and cracked walls.
The earthquake brought down the roof of a nursery school trapping dozens of children as they were having a Halloween party. Firefighters said at least five children were killed, along with a woman who lived nearby.
Many buildings have collapsed throughout the village.
"The scenario is devastating, but fortunately, the damage is limited to a restricted area."
Firefighters in Rome confirmed about 50 children had been trapped in the school, which private TG5 television said was built in 1954 and had undergone repairs several times in past years.
The school was surrounded by buildings that appeared unscathed. Elsewhere in town, however, entire buildings were brought down by the quake.
The temblor was felt across the Adriatic in Croatia, particularly on high floors of apartment buildings, the Croatian Seismological Institute said.
Panicked residents rushed into the streets, the civil defense said. The quake tore huge chunks of plaster from ceilings and left gaping cracks in walls.
The National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology in Rome said the quake in central Italy and the one shaking Etna did not appear to be connected.
In 1980, an earthquake in the area of Naples killed 2,570 people and left 30,000 homeless in the southern Campania and Basilicata regions.