About 250 people were killed in a 6.2 magnitude earthquake that rocked Italy, and dozens more are reported missing. Hundreds of people were wounded, and thousands are left without homes.
The earthquake with an epicenter just 10 kilometers deep struck at 3:36 AM local time, which flattened towns around the area.
Italian emergency crews rescued the survivors and attended to the injured in the towns of Amatrice, Pescara del Tronto and Accumoli, which were the hardest hit.
"It was a 'boom' - but it was noise you felt through your bones, rather than heard," a 19-year-old student Alessio Serrafini told Sydney Morning Herald.
Rome also felt tremors lasting 20 seconds.
"My bed started to shake and the door was shaking, it was very scary," said one resident.
Residents were evacuated in Amatrice and Accumoli, and shelters were set up for the affected people.
"We had one of the most beautiful places in Italy and now we have nothing," Amatrice Mayor Sergio Pirozzi was quoted as saying by Wall Street Journal.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi visited the town of Amatrice on Wednesday.
"Italy weeps for its fellow countrymen," he told reporters.
"No one will be left alone, no family, no community, no neighborhood," Renzi promised. "We must get down to work ... to restore hope to this area which has been so badly hit.
A significant portion of the town Amatrice was destroyed by the earthquake.
"The aim now is to save as many lives as possible. There are voices under the rubble," Pirozzi said. "We have to save the people there."
One video of a rescue operation showed a 10-year-old-girl Giulia pulled out alive from the rubble 17 hours after the earthquake struck the town of Pescara del Tronto. People are seen cheering as she is rescued and transferred to a firefighter.
"Unfortunately, 90 percent we pull out are dead, but some make it, that's why we are here," said Christian Bianchetti, a volunteer working in the village of Amatrice.
The Pope expressed his sadness at the destruction of one of the most beautiful towns in Italy.
"Hearing the mayor of Amatrice say that our town is gone, and knowing that there are children among the dead, I am deeply saddened," the Pope said.
In 2009, an earthquake in the city of L'Aquila, about 55 miles south of the epic center of Wednesday's morning quake, killed over 300 people and injured 1,500, while leaving about 65,000 homeless.