ASCOLI PICENO, Italy, Aug. 27 (UPI) -- Funerals began on Saturday in Italy for the victims of the devastating 6.2-magnitude earthquake which struck the country and killed 291 people.
According to Sky News, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and President Sergio Mattarella attended a state funeral for 35 people from the villages of Arquata and Pescara del Tronto at a gymnasium in Ascoli Piceno.
Renzi declared Saturday a day of mourning and his Cabinet pledged $56 million for reconstruction efforts, while Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan suspended taxes in affected areas.
"Don't be afraid to cry out your suffering but do not lose courage. Together we will rebuild our houses and church," Bishop Giovanni D'Ercole told mourners Saturday. "Together, above all we will restore life to our communities, starting from our traditions and from the rubble of death."
A state of emergency was also declared in the affected areas. CNN reported continued aftershocks in central Italy as rescue efforts continued.
Experts said the death toll may continue to rise as the chances for survival diminish some three days after the earthquake.
About 2,500 people were also displaced by the earthquake and forced to live in camps, according to the Civil Protection Agency.