A powerful earthquake hit central Italy Wednesday. The ruinous quake, which registered 6.2 on the Richter scale, struck while people slept, according to Reuters, and left as many as 250 people dead and many more homeless. The quake happened about 85 miles (140 km) from Rome and hit the towns of Amatrice, Pescara del Tronto, Arquata del Tronto and Accumoli the hardest, but it was felt from Bologna to the north and Naples to the south.

First responders used sniffer dogs, cranes and trucks to remove fallen debris in an effort to find survivors. As the rescue workers scrambled to find survivors in the devastated towns, a number of tremors, including 4.7- and 4.3-magnitude aftershocks, hindered rescue efforts and caused survivors to fear even more destruction.

According to CNN, Italy’s Civil Protection agency said most of the people who died or were injured were in Amatrice. The earthquake completely leveled large areas of Amatrice, which had been voted one of Italy’s most beautiful historic towns for its rustic charm, according to Reuters. Many vacationers were visiting Amatrice, which was gearing up for an annual food festival.

As time passes, the death toll is expected to rise. Some experts believe it will eventually surpass 300, which is about how many lost their lives during a similarly catastrophic quake in 2009 in the nearby L'Aquila region.
Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi toured some of the hard-hit areas after Wednesday’s earthquake. He said that he believes that the earthquake, despite all of the heartbreak it has caused, will unite Italians.

"Right now we feel terrible pain," Renzi said, according to CNN. "Italy is a family that has been hit and struck, but we are not going to be stopped."