More than 100 dead in devastating Italy earthquake

A strong earthquake has struck central Italy, leaving more than 100 people dead and dozens feared trapped under the rubble.

Hundreds have been injured after the 6.2-magnitude quake struck at just after 3.30am local time near the city of Perugia.

The quake was felt more than 100 miles away in Rome, as well as further afield in Switzerland and Croatia.

The mayor of Amatrice, one of the worst-hit areas, said "half the town is gone".

Thousands of people are believed to have been left homeless across the region.

A huge rescue operation is underway with sniffer dogs and heavy equipment arriving on Wednesday evening to help the emergency services.

ITV News Correspondent Emma Murphy is in Amatrice and said "a man has just been rescued from the rubble... we're told he's still alive".

The death toll could rise further with the mayor of Accumoli saying a family of four - which includes two children - "are not showing any signs of life".

At least 27 people are believed to have died between Accumoli and Amatrice, while a further 10 were killed in the nearby Arquata area.

At a press briefing, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi confirmed the death toll had risen and said Italy "knows how to cope", adding "when things don't go well the whole of Italy demonstrates its most beautiful aspect".

Renzi, who is expected to visit the affected areas later on Wednesday, also announced the release of £200 million in emergency funds.

A woman sits amongst the rubble. Credit: Reuters
The quake was felt in Rome, with Amatrice being one of the worst-hit areas. Credit: ITV News

Italy's civil protection agency described the earthquake as "severe".

One resident said the quake was "the worst I've felt in my life".

Lina Mercantini of Ceselli, Umbria told Reuters: "It was so strong. It seemed the bed was walking across the room by itself with us on it."

Olga Urbani, in the nearby town of Scheggino, said: "Dear God it was awful. The walls creaked and all the books fell off the shelves."

The last major earthquake to hit Italy struck the central city of L'Aquila in 2009 killing more than 300 people.

Rescuers search for people trapped under rubble. Credit: Reuters
The severe quake hit overnight in Italy. Credit: Reuters

Pope Francis cancelled a speech in the wake of the earthquake and instead prayed with a crowd for the victims.

"Hearing the mayor of Amatrice say that the town no longer exists and hearing that there are children among the victims, I am deeply saddened", the pontiff told people in St Peter's Square.

Britons in the affected area were advised by the Foreign Office to follow the instructions of the local authorities.