The mountainous region of Abruzzo in central Italy, where 179 people died in a powerful quake, was hit by aftershocks overnight, a civil protection department spokesman said on Tuesday.

According to preliminary reports, the quake, measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale hit the region early Monday, leaving some 70,000 people homeless and destroying thousands of buildings. About 1,500 people are reported injured.

Civil protection officials said the earthquake had caused damage to 26 cities and towns in the area, with around 10,000 buildings in the medieval town of L''Aquila, which was near the epicenter and is the capital of the region, being completely destroyed.

The parliamentary speaker for Italy''s lower house, Gianfranco Fini, said "Some towns in the area have been virtually destroyed in their entirety."

Italian Infrastructure and Transport Minister Altero Matteoli said over 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) would be needed to rebuild the damaged homes.

He said the Cabinet would meet on Thursday to discuss funding.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who cancelled his visit to Russia said earlier his country did not currently need aid from other states. He also said an emergency government meeting on Monday night had pledged 30 billion euros ($40 billion) to deal with the consequences of the earthquake.

Berlusconi is scheduled to pay another visit to L''Aquila, some 60 miles northeast of Rome, later on Tuesday.