Bologna: A strong earthquake measuring 6.0 on Richter scale hit parts of northern Italy on Sunday, causing damage to historic buildings and collapse of rural structures that killed at least six, reports said.
At least 50 others were injured.
According to US Geological Survey, the quake was centered 22 miles north-northwest of Bologna at a relatively shallow depth of 6.3 miles (10 km).
The quake which was felt across various towns including Bologna, Modena, Ferrara, Rovigo, Verona and Mantua, sent thousands of people running out of their homes onto streets in towns and cities across the Emilia Romagna region in panic.
The quake was followed by a number of aftershocks and the residents were instructed to stay out of their homes.
Officials also cautioned the patients to stay out of hospitals.
According to reports obtained so far, six people have died as buildings in which they were working, collapsed.
Three night-shift workers, one of who was a young migrant, died when two factories collapsed near Ferrara city in central Emilia Romagna region.
A 100-year-old woman was killed in her bed while a 37-year-old woman died of a heart attack during the quake, while another worker of a local foundry whose roof had collapsed was missing.
One five-year-old girl was rescued after getting trapped in debris, a police officer said.
Rescue efforts are underway and search for more people under the rubble is on.
Around 3,000 people were evacuated from their homes in northeast Italy, as per an agency`s report.
The last major earthquake that Italy witnessed was in 2009, a 6.3 magnitude quake that hit central Italian city of L`Aquila, killing nearly 300 people.
Meanwhile, Italian PM Mario Monti will return earlier than scheduled from the US, where he is attending a NATO summit, to deal with the aftermath of a deadly school bombing and a fatal quake, his spokeswoman said.
(With agencies’ inputs)