The death toll from a 6.2-magnitude earthquake early Wednesday and several aftershocks in central Italy climbed to 247, the civil protection agency announced early Thursday. The earthquake devastated three towns in the region sparking urgent search and rescue efforts for those trapped in the rubble.
A strong aftershock hit the region early Thursday as rescue operations continued, the U.S. Geological Survey reported, putting its magnitude at 4.7 with the epicenter about 4 miles east of Norcia. The epicenter of Wednesday morning's 6.2-magnitude earthquake was Norcia, which is about 105 miles northwest of Rome.
The towns that were most affected in the quake were Amatrice, Accumoli and Pescara del Tronto. Authorities said Thursday that 190 deaths were reported in Rieti province and 57 in neighboring Ascoli Piceno province.
Many people are still believed to be buried under rubble as more than 4,300 rescuers continue their operations using heavy lifting equipment.
While rescuers pulled bodies from the rubble, there were hopes of finding survivors as a young girl was pulled alive after being trapped under a collapsed house for 17 hours in the village of Pescara del Tronto.
"Right now we feel terrible pain," Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi reportedly said after touring some of the affected areas. "Italy is a family that has been hit and struck, but we are not going to be stopped."