'Like Dante's Inferno': Italy Quake Death Toll Rises to 159

Aerial images from the fire department showed whole streets in Amatrice flattened

The death toll from the magnitude 6.2 earthquake that struck central Italy early Wednesday, has reached at least 159, as rescuers raced to pull residents buried beneath debris.

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The strong tremor hit at 3:36 a.m. local time near Norcia and was felt more than 100 miles away in Rome. Some 368 people were injured. The army has been called to help search of survivors, using bare hands, heavy equipment and sniffer dogs. Several large aftershocks followed the quake amid dramatic scenes of rescue and cries for help.

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An 8-year-old girl was pulled alive from the rubble, according to The Associated Press. Chief firefighter Danilo Dionesei confirmed to the AP that she was alive and taken to hospital, but did not provide details on her condition. 

Stunned locals wandered through rubble in the worst-affected towns of Amatrice and Accumoli, near Perugia. Aerial images from the fire department showed whole streets in Amatrice flattened.

"We came out to the piazza, and it looked like 'Dante's Inferno,'" Agostino Severo, a Rome resident visiting the damaged town of Illica, told The Associated Press. "People crying for help, help."

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