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Italy Takes Damage but Avoids Catastrophe After Quake

Residents of Ussita in central Italy, prepare to spend the night in tents under pouring rain, Oct 27, 2016.

Two strong earthquakes hit central Italy Wednesday, causing severe damage to some churches and buildings, but avoiding the catastrophe seen just two months ago when an earthquake killed almost 300 people.

So far there have been no reports of deaths or major injuries, though several dozen people were treated for mild injuries or shock, according to Department of Civil Protection chief Fabrizio Curcio.

"Ultimately, the situation is not as catastrophic as might have been expected" given the strength of the tremors, he said.

The low number of injuries is likely due to the timing of the quakes, Marco Rinaldi, mayor of Ussita, one of the hardest hit cities, said. Many people fled their homes after the first 5.5 magnitude quake hit, so when the stronger 6.1 quake struck two hours later they had already evacuated.

"I've felt a lot of earthquakes but that was the strongest I've ever felt. Fortunately everyone had already left their homes after the first quake so I don't think anyone was hurt,” he said.

While Rinaldi said he was relieved no one was killed, he acknowledged the city took heavy damage and the full extent wouldn’t be known until the morning.

“Many houses have collapsed. Our town is finished,” he said.

Ussita is located about 75 kilometers north of the town of Amatrice, where an earthquake in August killed 297 people and injured hundreds of others.