Italy was hit by four earthquakes in four hours on Wednesday, bringing fear and foreboding to the same mountainous region that was struck by deadly tremors last year.
The four quakes, which came in quick succession, caused buildings to collapse but miraculously resulted in no deaths or injuries.
They affected already badly-damaged towns and villages in the regions of Abruzzo, Lazio and Marche, where around 300 people lost their lives last August.
The area is blanketed in heavy snow after unusually severe winter weather over the last week. Snowstorms made the job of emergency services even harder than usual, with vehicles struggling to reach remote areas to check on mountain villages and outlying farms.
The quakes were so strong that they caused buildings in distant Rome to shake, with office workers rushing out onto the streets, schools ordered to close and the metro temporarily suspended.
The first tremor happened at 10.25am local time, with the last felt shortly after 2.30pm. The magnitudes of the quakes varied between 5.3 and 5.7.
The bell tower of a church was brought crashing down in Amatrice, the hilltop town that was worst hit by the August earthquake.
The epicentre was the village of Montereale, north of the city of L’Aquila, which was devastated by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake in 2009 that killed 300 people.
“Everyone is outside. It’s very cold and windy,” said Lina Mercantini, who lives in the village of Ceselli in Umbria, 50 miles from the epicentre. “This is totally unnerving. It’s never ending. We are all shaking.”