250 Have now Perished in the Italian Earthquake

God have mercy.

The death toll from a devastating earthquake in central Italy rose sharply to almost 250 people early on Thursday after rescue teams worked through the night to try to find survivors under the rubble of flattened towns.

The provisional toll jumped to 247 from the 159 dead listed on Wednesday night, national and regional officials said as a wave of aftershocks rattled a cluster of mountain communities 140 km (85 miles) east of Rome.

The strong 6.2 magnitude quake struck early on Wednesday as people slept, razing homes and buckling roads. It was powerful enough to be felt in Bologna to the north and Naples to the south, both more than 220 km (135 miles) from the epicenter.

The sun rose on Thursday on many people who had slept in cars or tents, the earth continuing to tremble under their feet. Two powerful aftershocks registered 5.1 and 5.4.

Officials said the death toll seemed destined 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.

Pray for the Italians suffering this disaster.  And lend aid!