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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

5 Children Dead in Earthquake

ROME -- A strong earthquake rocked central and southern Italy on Thursday, trapping children in a nursery school after the roof collapsed, killing at least five children, firefighters said.

Twenty children and one teacher were pulled out alive and taken to nearby hospitals for treatment of injuries, said paramilitary police and firefighters in Rome, who were coordinating the rescue effort. RAI state television said eight of the 20 children rescued were suffering from critical injuries.

Confirmation of the reports was difficult because phone lines around the region were downed as a result of the 5.4-magnitude quake.

Firefighters in Rome confirmed about 50 children had been trapped in the nursery school by the quake. A firefighter who asked not be identified said the bodies of three children had been pulled from the rubble of the school.

The school was in San Giuliano di Puglia, a village of 1,195 people near the epicenter in Campobasso, located 225 kilometers southeast of Rome.

The quake had a 5.4 magnitude and was followed by at least two aftershocks, one with a 2.9 magnitude and another with a 3.7 magnitude -- all with their epicenter around Campobasso, said Marco Ludovici, an official with the Civil Defense department in Rome.

Schools were evacuated in at least three towns in the Abbruzzo region, as well as in the city of Isernia, about 25 kilometers away from Campobasso.