Watch as mourners pay tribute to the victims of the Italian earthquake

Updated: 

A funeral service has taken place for those killed in a powerful earthquake in central Italy, as the nation observed a day of mourning for the victims.

The death toll is currently at 290, but there are fears that it will rise as many are still unaccounted for.

The funeral Mass for 35 people was led by Bishop Giovanni D'Ercole in a community gym in Ascoli Piceno, with the coffins laid out in rows and adorned with photographs and flowers.

(Gregorio Borgia/AP)
(Gregorio Borgia/AP)

The Bishop told mourners, who wept and held each other, to find courage to rebuild their homes and communities.

"Don't be afraid to cry out your suffering - I have seen a lot of this - but please do not lose courage," he said.

"Only together can we rebuild our houses and our churches. Together, above all, we will be able to restore life to our communities."

(Gregorio Borgia/AP)
(Gregorio Borgia/AP)

President Sergio Mattarella and Premier Matteo Renzi attended the funeral service, and before it began Mattarella visited the town of Amatrice.

The president also met and thanked rescue teams, who have been working since the quake struck early on Wednesday to save people trapped in rubble, and recover the dead.

Due to the vast extent of the damage, the president could survey the ruins only from the outskirts because it is too dangerous to enter the sealed-off, once-picturesque town centre.

(Antonio Calanni/AP)
(Antonio Calanni/AP)

As Italy observed the day of mourning, flags flew at half-mast and those hit hardest by the tragedy expressed their grief.

"It is a great tragedy. There are no words to describe it," said Gina Razzetti, a resident of Ascoli Piceno who joined hundreds of local people for the funeral.

"Each one of us has our pain inside. We are thinking about the families who lost relatives, who lost their homes, who lost everything."