Page last updated at 18:45 GMT, Monday, 6 April 2009 19:45 UK

Eyewitnesses: Italy earthquake

A powerful earthquake has struck the central Italian city of L'Aquila, killing dozens of people. Here witnesses describe what happened.

I was in my living room on the couch, sleeping, when I heard the first sounds, the first tremors coming at 11 o'clock, and it was quite frightening.

Then I fell asleep and all of a sudden I was on the floor and the walls around me were caving in. I couldn't see anything it was just dust, cement - the smell of cement the smell of dust all over and then when it finally cleared I saw the streets and all I had was a metre of floor between me and the street...

I had three young boys help me and we were just going over rubble and it was unsteady and we all went in to the middle of this small piazza.

But all you saw when you were standing in the piazza was the facades of buildings but then behind there was nothing. The entire centre of the buildings had just caved in.

We first felt two tremors - I am so shaken now that I can't even remember what time it was - but then we calmed down because we were told that they were less than 4.2 on the scale. Then we were woken up by the terrible earthquake and everything collapsed - everything fell, the plaster from the walls and all the furniture.

While everything was caving in I had to help my son get out of his room. The whole room had collapsed. My son and daughter were in their bedrooms and the way to the stairs was blocked by a piece of furniture.

We ran downstairs - everything was falling down.

Near my house a family was trapped inside the rubble. They seemed to be all dead

My house had three floors. We were on the central floor. We evacuated the building desperately, we were barefoot and hurt our feet. When we got to the ground floor there was already a heap of wreckage. A miracle, it has been a miracle.

When we eventually got out to the street - after running across the courtyard, fearing that we could be crushed - another terrible shock occurred. We thought we could be hit by the collapsing rooftops - by bricks and plaster.

Miraculously we managed to walk for 60 minutes as everything kept falling down. Finally we gathered at Piazza Angioina in front of this church whose front facade had come down. Half of a 13th-century church had also collapsed.

Near my house a family was trapped inside the rubble. They seemed to be all dead. I managed to help rescue the husband's body, but three women are still trapped.

I was left for three hours under the rubble. I wasn't able to free myself.

Luckily two beams prevented the wall from collapsing around me.

The rescue teams arrived after more than three hours. This is a city that is full of barracks but it was citizens who pulled me out with their bare hands.

I was shouting for help. I could hear my mobile phone ringing but I could not get to it.

Finally there was a small opening, hands reached out, they grabbed me and I got out.

In the block where I live there were about 20 flats. I don't know how many people are still there underneath.

Inside everything started to move, the wardrobe was going this way and that. We didn't understand what was happening, the pictures came off the walls the windows broke.
All the old buildings in the centre are either badly damaged or have collapsed

There was no power, the lights had gone out, everything was dark and you could not see anything.

We escaped outside like madmen, we didn't understand what was happening, the whole building was moving under our feet, it is something that's impossible to describe…

All the old buildings in the centre are either badly damaged or have collapsed…

We are [now] at the point where the ambulances are passing to get to the hospital. It's constant.

They're also bringing in containers for people to spend the night in for people whose houses have been destroyed.

They are bringing us food and water. But because of the fear we haven't been able to eat.

I am in St Elia, just outside L'Aquila. At about 0330 this morning I was woken by a violent tremor.

I jumped out of my bed shouting 'everybody outside'.

I led my wife and son — still in their pyjamas, like myself — out of the house and into our car, and we fled to an open area.

We passed ruins nearby. Our house was not severely damaged, although many smaller tremors followed.

We spent about four hours there, among many other very scared people.

I returned home briefly, but my family and all my neighbours are still outside, and refuse to enter any buildings.

There are a few houses in the neighbourhood that have collapsed and everyone is scared.

Aside from this, there are no petrol stations or shops open, and nobody can get a hot meal.

And there are still tremors, the latest one was about five minutes ago, as I was writing this.

The main problem now is where to sleep tonight. I would sleep at home, but my wife is not prepared to do so, and wants to sleep in the car.

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