Two strong aftershocks spark panic in Italy

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Two strong aftershocks hit central Italy, destroying churches and homes and knocking out power, just two months after a powerful earthquake killed nearly 300 people.

But there were no reports of serious injuries or signs of people trapped in rubble, said the head of Italy’s civil protection agency, Fabrizio Curio.

A handful of people were treated for slight injuries or anxiety at area hospitals in the most affected regions of Umbria and Le Marche, he said.

A 73-year-old man died of a heart attack, possibly brought on by the quakes, local authorities told the ANSA news agency.

Mr Curcio said his information was that the aftershocks had not been as “catastrophic” as they could have been.

They were aftershocks to the August 24 earthquake that struck much of central Italy, demolishing buildings in three towns and their hamlets, seismologists said.

Several towns this time also suffered serious damage, with homes in the epicentre of Visso spilling out into the street.

The first struck at 7:10pm local time and carried a magnitude of 5.4. But the second one was eight times stronger at 6.1, according to the US Geological Survey.

Because many residents had already left their homes with plans to spend the night in their cars or elsewhere, they were not home when the second aftershock hit two hours later, possibly saving lives, officials said.

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