The center of Amatrice was devastated, with entire palazzos razed to the ground. Aerial images from the fire department showed whole streets flattened.

At least 120 people have died after a powerful earthquake struck central Italy on Wednesday, said Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, warning that the figure could still rise.

An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.2 has destroyed buildings and homes in the mountains of central Italy, trapping residents in their homes as they were sleeping in the early hours of Wednesday (24 August). At least 120 people have been reported dead. Two towns were hit particularly hard by the tremors.

Survivors have described ‘apocalyptic’ scenes in towns and villages near the city of Perugia – the capital of the tourist-packed Umbrian region, which is especially popular with British holidaymakers.

The shallow quake, estimated to have struck after 3:30am at a depth of six miles, was felt across a broad section of central Italy, including the capital Rome where people in homes in the historic centre felt a long swaying followed by aftershocks.

A dust-covered man trapped in the rubble of his home as he slept is pulled from a hole by rescuers in Amatrice this morning

A dust-covered man trapped in the rubble of his home as he slept is pulled from a hole by rescuers in Amatrice this morning

Towns across three regions — Umbria, Lazio and Marche — were devastated by the quake, which could be felt as far away as Bologna in the north and Naples in the south. 53 people were killed in two towns, Amatrice and Accumoli, both in Lazio, and 20 others in Marche, where the village of Arquata del Tronto and the hamlet of Pescara del Tronto suffered severe damage.

The mayor of Amatrice near Rieti, Sergio Perozzi, told state-run RAI Radio 1 that there were downed buildings in the town centre and that the lights had gone out. He said he was unable to get in touch with emergency responders or reach the hospital.

“What can I tell you? It’s a tragedy,” he said. “Half the town is gone. There are people under the rubble… There’s been a landslide and a bridge might collapse.”

Italian ministry promises €234 million for  the earthquake relief effort. “The fund for national emergencies has made €234 million available, which will be used to meet immediate needs,” read a note from Paola De Micheli, undersecretary for Italy’s Ministry of Economy and Finance.

Several European and foreign leaders have offered their solidarity with Italy, including Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Francois Hollande and the Netherlands’ Mark Rutte.

Matteo Renzi, the Italian Prime Minister, has thanked rescue workers in central Italy for their efforts in recovering dozens of people from rubble caused by a massive earthquake in the region.

“At moments of trouble Italy knows how to cope. No family, no city, no hamlet will be left alone,” he said.

The total number of deaths and injuries will not become clear until later on; many people are still trapped in collapsed buildings. Rescue workers and emergency services are working to help residents but in some of the affected towns, access roads are blocked by the rubble.

A map showing the location of Amatrice in Central Italy

A map showing the location of Amatrice in Central Italy

Residents react to the devastating damage after the Italy earthquake

Residents react to the devastating damage after the Italy earthquake

A survivor in Amatrice is helped to safety after a powerful earthquake has rocked Italy overnight killing at least 38 people and burying many more as they slept

A survivor in Amatrice is helped to safety after a powerful earthquake has rocked Italy overnight killing dozens people and burying many more as they slept

A sniffer dog is used to seek out any survivors under a collapsed building in Amatrice on Wednesday morning

A sniffer dog is used to seek out any survivors under a collapsed building in Amatrice on Wednesday morning

A dust-covered man cries with his head in his hands as the shock of what has happened overnight sinks in

A dust-covered man cries with his head in his hands as the shock of what has happened overnight sinks in