At least 247 have died and 368 have been injured. Officials say the death toll is likely to rise further
The death toll from the earthquake that hit central Italy in the early hours of Wednesday has risen to 247 after rescue workers dug through the flattened towns and worked through the night to look for survivors, national and regional offices said.
At least 368 more people were injured, the national civil protection agency said, as many others remained trapped in the rubble of damaged and collpased buildings, some entirely razed by the 6.2 magnitude earthquake that razed homes.
Officials said the death toll is likely to rise further. The toll appeared likely to surpass that from the last major quake to strike Italy, a temblor that killed more than 300 people in the central city of L'Aquila in 2009.
Hundreds of people spent a chilly night in hastily assembled tents with the risk of aftershocks making it too risky for them to return home.
Scores of buildings were reduced to dusty piles in communities close to the epicentre of the quake.
One hotel that collapsed in Amatrice, one of the worst-hit towns, probably had about 70 guests and only seven bodies have been recovered so far, said the mayor.
Rescuers working with emergency lighting in the darkness saved a 10-year-old girl, pulling her alive from the rubble where she had lain for some 17 hours in the hamlet of Pescara del Tronto.
Many other children were not so lucky. A family of four, including two boys aged 8 months and 9 years, were buried when their house imploded in the nearby village of Accumoli.
As rescue workers carried away the body of the infant, carefully covered by a small blanket, the children's grandmother blamed God. "He took them all at once," she wailed.
Italy's earthquake institute, INGV, said the epicentre was near Accumoli and Amatrice, which lie between the larger towns of Ascoli Piceno to the northeast and Rieti to the southwest.
Italy is vulnerable to earthquakes and the 2009 tremor in L'Aquila led to lengthy recriminations over lax building controls and the failure of authorities to warn residents that a quake could be imminent.
Italy sits on two fault lines, making it one of the most seismically active countries in Europe.
(WION with inputs from agencies)