A powerful earthquake has hit central and southern Italy just days after tremors saw hundreds forced from their homes.1quakeThere were no immediate reports of death or injuries but the trembling sent buildings already damaged by previous quakes crumbling to the ground. Pictures showed nuns and monks running to safety as the town church in the central Italian town of Norcia, near Perugia, in Umbria, collapsed.

The Monks of Norcia said the Basilica of St Benedict had been “flattened” in the quake, which struck at 7.40am local time at a magnitude of 6.6 and a depth of 10km. ┬áResidents of the quake-battered town took to the square with the monks and nuns to pray although many had already fled for the coast after the strikes on Wednesday.

An earthquake in the same region, which is prone to seismic activity, in August left 298 people dead.  Just four days ago the same area was hit by a 6.1 magnitude and 5.5 magnitude earthquake, forcing hundreds to flee there home.

Residents, who had already abandoned their homes after the two quakes last week and were sleeping in their cars, told how “everything collapsed” when the quake struck.