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Earthquake Death Toll In Italian Town Of Amatrice Now At 247

Rescue workers are battling against time to find survivors from an earthquake that struck central Italy before dawn on Wednesday, the death toll now hitting 247 - almost 10% of the town's estimated population of 2,657.

During a visit to the affected region when the toll was at 120, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said "this toll is not final."

"It is a pain without limits," he said.

More than 368 injured and sick people have been rescued from the two worst-hit villages, Amatrice and Accumoli, after the earthquake of a magnitude of at least 6 struck.

Italy was now standing together in solidarity to overcome the great challenges it faces after the quake, Renzi said. Dozens of people are still missing with hopes of finding them alive fading.

It is feared the death count could rise further as many victims are trapped under rubble.

The quake was felt as far away as Rome, which lies about 150 kilometres south-west of the epicentre, which lay at a depth of 4.2 kilometres in a wooded area in the province of Rieti.

It was followed by more than 50 aftershocks, the strongest a 5.4-magnitude quake.

"We will leave nobody on their own," Renzi pledged earlier in the day as he thanked people - including many who had searched for survivors with their bare hands - for aiding the rescue effort.

"Half of the town is gone," said Amatrice Mayor Sergio Pirozzi.

Amatrice's hospital was evacuated, and its 15 patients were moved out into the street. People injured from the earthquake were also taken there.

But there were also signs of hope.

One boy was pulled alive from the rubble in the town of Pescara del Tronto. Doctors also freed a 6-year-old boy from the rubble in Amatrice, though his twin brother remained missing.

The European Union offered whatever aid it could, including access to satellite navigation services to better survey the scene.

"We stand, as ever, in solidarity with the Italian nation and are ready to assist in any way we can," tweeted European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella appealed for solidarity during a "moment of pain and of appeal to common responsibility."

"The immediate need is to engage all forces to save lives, care for the wounded and ensure the best conditions for the displaced," he said.

The disaster has already prompted an outpouring of sympathy.

Pope Francis said he was nearly at a loss for words.

"Hearing the mayor of Amatrice saying that the town doesn't exist any more and knowing that there are children among the victims has moved me deeply," he said.


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