ITALIAN QUAKE TERROR.
AT least 27 people were killed after a major earthquake flattened homes and buildings in central Italy today.
Italian authorities fear thousands of people could be left homeless after the 6.3-magnitude quake struck at around 2.30am UK time near L'Aquila, 60 miles north east of Rome.
There were reports of widespread damage in the medieval town, including a collapsed university residence and church tower, with dozens of rescue workers sifting through rubble.
According to reports, four children died in L'Aquila, which has a population of 70,000, after their houses collapsed.
The town's mayor Massimo Cialente said two people were reported dead in the nearby small town of Fossa. He also confirmed reports eight more were missing in another small town.
Britons living in the region told how their houses shook violently in the early hours today.
Matthew Peacock, who lives with his wife and child in the Umbrian town of Amelia - around 60 miles north of Rome - said he woke up around 2.30am feeling a "very significant shaking".
He added: "I live in a big old stone house with walls a metre thick.
"It felt like the house was being shaken from the rooftop - my bed was banging against the wall and you could hear this creaking.
Powerful earthquakes are relatively rare in Italy. In 1997, at least 10 people died when two quakes hit the country's central region..
QUAKE: Death toll rises after tremors shake central Italy