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Grim search for bodies continues in earthquake-hit central Italy

Bodies are still believed to be buried beneath massive piles of rubble that were the town’s buildings before Wednesday’s quake struck, measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale.

The earthquake was strong, but the damage was especially profound because many of the buildings were hundreds of years old and not subject to modern seismic codes, according to the Reuters news service.

Nearly 300 people are known to have died, most in Amatrice.

Searchers are currently searching through the wreckage of Amatrice’s Hotel Roma, which had been filled with guests attending the town’s annual food festival.

Deputy Mayor Gianluca Carloni said his uncle’s body still not been recovered from the hotel.

“It is absolutely vital to finish as soon as possible this initial [search] phase to make sure that there are no more bodies under the rubble,” Carloni said.

Museums across the country donated their Sunday proceeds to help the town in the Apennine mountains rebuild, Reuters said.

Soccer teams nationwide held a formal moment of silence before their weekend matches, Reuters said, as aftershocks continued to shake up the area.

Pope Francis prayed for earthquake victims in his weekly address from St Peter’s Square in Rome, and pledged to visit the devastated area.

“Dear brothers and sisters, as soon as it is possible, I hope to come and visit you,” he said.

Priests in the mountainous region affected by the quake held services in tents, since every one of Amatrice’s 100 churches were damaged in Wednesday’s shaker with many needing to be demolished.

A 4.4 magnitude aftershock struck Sunday centered in the nearby city of Ascoli Piceno.

“It took me 20 years to get my house, and then, in just 10 seconds, it was gone, like so many others,” said Ascenzio Attenni, a resident of nearby Sant’Angelo.

“We have to thank God that we are alive,” he said.

Italy’s Civil Protection Department lists the death toll at 290, but that is subject to change.

Fourteen Romanians who worked in the region were still unaccounted for, Reuters said.

Italy promised to rebuild the communities damaged by the earthquake, and pledged to avoid mistakes made following a quake that wrecked the city of L’Aquila in 2009.

Much of that damage still have not been repaired, years after reports surfaced that organized crime figures had infiltrated rebuilding efforts and obtained lucrative contracts, Reuters said.

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