The powerful earthquake that struck the Abruzzo region of central Italy today has taken a huge toll: killing at least 150 people , and leaving tens of thousands of residents without shelter.
Survivors say the 6.3 magnitude quake was so strong that it was felt 60 miles to the west, in Rome, leveling entire towns and whole blocks of buildings in its path. More than 70,000 dazed residents were forced to spend the night outside despite rain and hail.
The entire city of L'Aquila in central Italy was braced to spend the night in streets, piazzas, parking lots or in cars, too afraid to return to their quake-shattered homes except to quickly grab blankets and other necessities before rushing back into the streets. Up to 50,000 may be homeless.
Thousands of rescuers rushed to the stunned city to help find survivors and dig out victims from Italy's worst quake in 30 years that turned much of the medieval city into rubble.
Rescuers told the Italian news agency ANSA they had pulled over 108 bodies from wreckage of L'Aquila and neighboring towns, and that numbers were expected to rise.
Firefighters and police furiously searched through the rubble of a collapsed dormitory of the University of L'Aquila, where one student is reportedly dead and eight remain missing.
"We dug with our hands," firefighter Domenico Di Bartolomeo told ABC News. "There was a 21-year-old student trapped and we got her out. Only her collarbone was broken."
Another 1,500 were injured and more than 70,000 were left homeless. More than 10,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed.
Italian Police Chief Antonio Manganelli said the massive temblor has left ''a horrible scene of death and destruction.''
''At the moment 4,000 rescuers are at work and concentrating on extracting people from the rubble,'' Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said during a news conference from L'Aquila today. Berlusconi canceled a trip to Moscow to travel to the area and surveyed the damage from a helicopter.
In Paganica, the town closest to the epicenter, police say 70 percent of the buildings are completely destroyed.
Structures that had lasted centuries collapsed in the quake. Heritage Ministry Secretary-General Giuseppe Proietti told ANSA that the beautiful city gateway Porta Napoli, built in 1548 in honor of Emperor Charles V, tumbled to the ground. A large part of the 13th-century Basilica di Santa Maria di Collemaggio also collapsed, he said.
In Tempera, east of L'Aquila, architectural masterpieces, including a 16th century church, are in ruins. Two or three people were reportedly dead, buried under rubble. Emergency crews are waiting for heavy machines to dig them out. Up to 90 percent of the homes in this historic village center have been heavily damaged.
"This is the worst I've ever seen," said firefighter Paola Salciccia. "It will be days before we can account for everyone."
More heartbreaking was the human toll. ANSA reported that the hospital of L'Aquila was among the damaged buildings, leaving its doctors treating quake victims outside the building's main entrance.
ABC's Miguel Marquez reported from L'Aquila's Piazza D'Armi sports center, which has been turned into a makeshift emergency shelter where about 1,000 people congregated, too afraid of their own homes.
Rescue workers were setting up tent cities in the town's soccer and rugby stadiums and were trying to feed everyone.