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Italy holds state funeral for earthquake victims as death toll rises to 290

A day of national mourning began today for victims of the 6.2 magnitude earthquake that struck central Italy on Wednesday, killing 290 people.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi joined mourners at a state funeral for 35 victims at a community gymnasium in the town of Ascoli Piceno, capital of the March region.

Ahead of the funeral, caskets were lined up in the gym where mourners have been bidding farewell to loved ones, kneeling, crying and placing their hands on flower-covered caskets.

Afterwards, the coffins were taken to a small cemetery in the mountain town of Arquata del Tronto.

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Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, centre, attends Saturday’s funeral service in Ascoli Piceno. (Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images)

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An injured woman mourns next to the coffin of an earthquake victim in a gymnasium arranged in a chapel in Ascoli Piceno. (Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images)

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People gather at coffins in the gymnasium on Friday. (Richard Devey/CBC)

Italy’s civil protection agency released a higher death shortly before funeral services began.

The worst-hit town was Amatrice, which now has 230 confirmed deaths. It is there that the death toll has been rising. Three more bodies were recovered overnight from the rubble in the hilltop town that bore the brunt of the devastation.

Elsewhere, 11 were killed in Accumoli and 49 in Arquato del Tronto.

Residents of central Italy were rattled by a series of aftershocks overnight, the strongest measuring 4.2.

A recent aftershock collapsed the only northern entrance to the city, the small Tre Occhi Bridge, sealing Amatrice off to rescue vehicles and ambulances. Residents were left a half hour walk away from their homes under the scorching sun.

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