AMATRICE, Italy, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) — The death toll in a strong earthquake in central Italy has risen to 73, according to Italy's civil protection agency on Wednesday.

The 6.0-magnitude earthquake hit the city of Rieti at 3:32 a.m. Wednesday (0132 GMT), with a shallow depth of 4.2 km, according to the National Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

Several powerful aftershocks followed, said the agency.

The temblor was felt across the Lazio region and in Rome, the capital of the country.

Amatrice and Accumuli, two small towns in the Rieti province, were among the hardest hit, local media reported. Sergio Pirozzi, mayor of Amatrice, told local media that "most of the town is gone. "

"Unfortunately, we expect the number of victims to rise as day breaks," Accumuli mayor Stefano Petrucci said.

Civil Protection chief Fabrizio Curcio told a press conference in Rome early Wednesday that the earthquake could be compared to the strong earthquake that hit the city of L'Aquila in 2009, which left more than 300 people dead and thousands displaced.

The national emergency fund has allocated 234 million euros (263 million U.S. dollars) as immediate aid to earthquake-stricken towns and villages in central Italy, according to the economy ministry.

"We will leave no one on their own — not one family, one town or one village," Italy's Premier Matteo Renzi told a Rome press conference before heading to the stricken areas.

"The priority right now is to dig" people out of the rubble after the earthquake, Renzi said.

L'Aquila Mayor Massimo Cialente said 250 temporary homes built after the 2009 earthquake were available for the newly displaced. The Rieti provincial chapter of Italian blood donation charity AVIS has issued a call for people to donate blood for the injured.