Strong earthquake hits central Italy; 50 dead


Monday, April 6th 2009, 11:13 am
By: News 9


L'AQUILA, Italy (AP) -- Residents in central Italy have spent a harrowing morning after a powerful earthquake knocked down whole blocks of buildings and killed at least 50 people.
   The quake struck as residents slept, trapping many inside collapsed buildings.
   Student Luigi Alfonsi, who made it out of a collapsing dormitory, says he and others "had to sneak through a hole in the stairs as the whole floor came down."
   The earthquake's epicenter was about 70 miles northeast of Rome and was felt in the capital. The quake-prone region has had at least nine smaller jolts since the beginning of April. The U.S. Geological Survey says the quake was magnitude 6.3, but Italy's National Institute of Geophysics put it at 5.8.
   Officials say the death toll is likely to rise.
   A local mayor says many buildings in the city's historic center were damaged and firefighters aided by dogs are working feverishly to reach trapped victims.