ROME — At least sixteen people were killed and dozens were missing Wednesday after a magnitude 6.2 earthquake and a series of aftershocks struck several towns in central Italy, according to local news reports.

The death toll climbed in the morning as rescuers searched for people trapped in the rubble.

Two people were killed in Pescara del Tronto, a small town in the Ascoli Piceno province, La Repubblica newspaper reported. Shortly after, Accumoli Mayor Stefano Pertucci said the bodies of a family of four were found beneath the debris. None showed any sign of life.

ANSA news agency reported two bodies were pulled from the rubble in Amatrice. ANSA reported that the death toll was likely to rise.

Police near Ascoli say they can hear cries for help from under the rubble but they lack the heavy equipment to move the rocks, according the RAI radio.

“Half of the town doesn’t exist anymore,” Sergio Perozzi, mayor of Amatrice, told RAI-TV. “People are stuck underneath the rubble. Houses are no longer there.”

Several buildings collapsed and lights went out after the earthquake, Perozzi said. He said he had trouble communicating with emergency responders and couldn’t reach the hospital.

The picturesque medieval town of about 3,000 residents — best known as the home of “pasta all’amatriciana” — is remote and was cut off after a bridge connecting the town and the rest of the region was damaged in the quake.

Search parties sifted through the rubble in various towns and villages as the sun rose. It became clear for some officials that the extent of the damage was worse than they initially thought.

“Now that daylight has come, we see that the situation is even more dreadful than we feared with buildings collapsed, people trapped under the rubble and no sound of life,” Pertucci, Accumoli mayor, told RAI-TV.

Fabrizio Curcio, the director of Italy’s Civil Protection Department, activated national emergency procedures in light of the earthquake. His office is in touch with officials in the areas affected.

The first earthquake struck around 3:30 a.m. local time near Norcia, a small medieval town roughly 105 miles from Rome, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

No victims were reported in the closest town, Norcia, but the quakes damaged buildings, according to RaiNews24.

“Much of our patrimony is damaged, but there are no victims,” Mayor Nicola Alemanno told RaiNews24. “That is the good news.”