Victims of the massive earthquake in central Italy were given state funerals in an emotional ceremony Saturday, in a day of national mourning that saw the provisional death toll from the tragedy rise to 291.

The magnitude-6 quake struck a rugged mountain area between the regions of Umbria, Lazio and Marche early Wednesday, spreading death in three municipalities roughly 150 kilometres north-east of the capital Rome.

Amatrice was the worst-affected town, with 230 dead. There were also 11 victims in nearby Accumoli and 50 in Arquata del Tronto, including a man who died in hospital on Saturday, Italy's civil defence agency, Protezione Civile, said in a statement.

In the provincial capital of Ascoli Piceno, 35 coffins were lined up inside a sports hall, including one for the sister of Giorgia, the four-year-old girl who survived 16 hours under the rubble and whose rescue has provoked a nationwide swell of emotion.

Leading a funeral service packed with hundreds of mourners, Bishop Giovanni D'Ercole said he turned in anguish to God and asked: "And now, what do we do?" He went on to say: "The answer that we can give is silence, hugging and, for me, prayer."

He spoke in front of a crucifix retrieved from Pescara del Tronto, the hamlet where the Giorgia and her dead sister Giulia lived. Amid sweltering heat, a relative of one of the victims fell ill and was brought out on a stretcher, the ANSA news agency reported.

The names of the dead were read out during Mass, and at the end, coffins were sprinkled with water and incense. The smallest coffin was for Marisol, a 20-month-old girl, who was due to be given a second funeral when her mother is released from hospital.

President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi attended the service. At the end, they stayed on to consult local authorities and talk individually to grieving relatives. A teenage boy could be seen crying profusely while he hugged Mattarella.

The 35 commemorated Saturday were among the 50 dead from Arquata. Amatrice, where rescuers were still looking for people under the rubble, was due to hold its own memorial service on Tuesday, while other private funerals have been held in Rome and elsewhere.

Mattarella started the day flying by helicopter to Amatrice, the town with the highest death count. He then made a stopover in Accumoli and, after the funeral, visited more survivors at the hospital of Ascoli Piceno, including baby Giorgia.

Flags on public buildings across Italy were flown at half mast, and public broadcaster RAI suspended all advertising on its radio and television channels.

The Protezione Civile said aftershocks were continuing to plague the earthquake area. More than 1,300 have been counted since Wednesday, including 92 starting from midnight on Saturday, which did not cause any additional damage.

It also said a solidarity campaign via SMS raised more than 6.1 million euros (6.8 million dollars), more than double the amount collected Friday. The surge came after the agency urged people to send money, rather than food and clothes, to the affected areas.

More aid could be forthcoming from a European Union fund for natural disasters. The Protezione Civile said it would make an application for financial assistance "in the coming weeks," after coordinating with the affected regions.

Some 2,500 people have been left homeless by the quake, and authorities said the priority was to allow them to continue living in their communities, where basic services and accommodation will have to be provided by temporary structures.

On Friday, Mayor Sergio Pirozzi said wooden houses would be built near destroyed buildings in Amatrice to stop it turning into a ghost town, while the government in Rome pledged to reopen schools as soon as possible "to give a signal" that life would continue.

Meanwhile, prosecutors are investigating whether the flouting of building safety regulations aggravated the tragedy, amid outrage over the collapse of a recently renovated elementary school in Amatrice.

No suspects have been identified, but according to the La Repubblica newspaper prosecutor Giuseppe Saieva presumed foul play. "What happened cannot be considered just a fatality," as it looks like some destroyed homes were built "with more sand than cement," he was quoted as saying.

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.