Italian authorities have confirmed that the massive earthquake in central Italy has killed 247 people and hospitalised 264 after it razed to the ground three towns.
The country’s Civil Protection agency said on Thursday in Rome that the count was still provisional, as search was still on for survivors.
The magnitude-6 quake struck a mountainous area between the regions of Umbria, Lazio and Marche at 3:36 am (0136 GMT) on Wednesday, toppling buildings and leaving many people trapped under the rubble in the municipalities of Amatrice, Accumoli and Arquata del Tronto.
Firemen and other emergency rescue staff pledged to continue working until they “are sure that there are no more people under the ruins”.
Luigi D’Angelo, Civil Protection official in Amatrice, said that the team are in a phase where they still hoped to find people alive.
He noted that in Amatrice, hundreds of people spent the night in makeshift camp beds inside a local sports hall or in tents put up by authorities in a nearby football ground.
Others preferred to sleep in their cars, ready to leave in case of another major shock.
D’Angelo said that one focus of the town’s fears was the historic Hotel Roma, which was destroyed by the tremor.
“It hosted a restaurant famous for Amatriciana pasta, a local delicacy.
Mayor Sergio Pirozzi said that the hotel had 35 guests, lowering a previous estimate of 70.
Pirozzi said there were “more than 190 dead” in Amatrice, by far the worst hit town.
“In a park just off the historic centre, bodies could be seen wrapped in blankets and lined up on the ground, surrounded by weeping relatives.
Pirozzi said that government was due to declare a state of emergency and pledge money for reconstruction efforts at a cabinet meeting in Rome later Thursday.
Meanwhile, flags were flying at half-mast at public buildings across Italy as a symbol of national mourning.