UPDATE: The tragedy in central Italy has worsened, with now more than 240 people reported dead and more being pulled from the rubble every hour.
Aftershocks are still hitting the stricken towns of Amatrice, Accumoli and Pescara, with journalists and bystanders being urged to steer clear as it is still dangerous.
More than 4,300 rescuers are currently fighting to save as many people as they can, with machinery and their bare hands.
Hopes are still high for finding survivors as dozens of people are believed to still be trapped under the ruins.
AT LEAST 38 people have been killed and the death count continues to rise after a powerful earthquake struck central Italy.
Felt right across the region, the 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck at half past three in the morning with an epicentre near Norcia and rippling across Arquata del Tronto, Amatrice and Accumoli, where aftershocks continued to terrify residents well into the morning.
Sergio Pirozzi, the mayor of the small hamlet of Amatrice, a renowned beauty spot and popular holiday destination, summed up the destruction, simply saying that his town ‘isn’t here any more’.
Dozens of large buildings have collapsed and emergency services are on the ground extracting the dead and searching for survivors. Thousands of people have been left homeless by the tragedy and camps are being established to help the wounded.
“There are so many dead I cannot make an estimate”, said Pirozzi. “There are dozens of victims, many under the rubble. We are setting up a place for the bodies.”
Even Roman residents, some 90 miles, were woken by the early tremors of what is thought to be Italy’s strongest earthquake since the 2009 L’Aquila event which saw 308 people lose their lives.