The new quake comes just one week after a 6.0-magnitude tremor hit the same region, killing seven people and destroying buildings.
The quake hit north-east of the city of Parma in the province of Ferrara at 09:03 GMT.
Authorities have thus far confirmed 15 people dead, but there are fears that the death toll will keep rising as rescuers sift through the rubble.
The mayor of San Felice sul Panaro said that “people were trapped under the rubble” there.
At a press conference, Prime Minister Mario Monti said the government would do “all that it must and all that is possible in the briefest period to guarantee the resumption of normal life in this area that is so special, so important and so productive for Italy.”
The powerful earthquake was felt across northern and central Italy, including the most populous northern city, Milan.
Buildings and schools have been evacuated throughout the area.
Below, a house collapse was caught on film as the ground shook. Check it out…
- Deadly Earthquake Hits Northern Italy (fox8.com)
- Italy earthquake 2012: Earthquake kills at least 10 people (wjla.com)
- Another strong earthquake in northern Italy on May 29 (earthsky.org)
- Italy quake victims wake in cars, tents, schools (sacbee.com)