August 24, 2016 01:50 AM

The death toll has risen to 73 after a massive earthquake rocked central Italy and leveled at least two towns, Italian officials say.

The magnitude-6.2 quake hit about 3:35 a.m. local time about 65 miles northeast of Rome, the BBC reports.

Authorities announced that at least 73 are dead and dozens more are missing or feared dead, USA Today reports.

A majority of the deaths occurred in the town of Pescara del Tronto, the newspaper reports.

The town of Amatrice, north of Italy’s Lazio region, was reduced to rubble with only a single clock tower able to withstand the quake, CNN reports.

“The town is no more,” Amatrice Mayor Sergio Pirozzi told reporters, according to CNN. “I have an appeal to make: we have access roads to the town cut off and people under the rubble, help us.”

A mother comforts her son in Amatrice
ANSA via AP

A CNN reporter in the small town of Accumoli said many are outside of their homes and afraid to go inside for fear of aftershocks.

“A lot of the villages have very ancient buildings,” the reporter said. “Those are made of old stone, brick and mud, so they just fell apart.”

Rescue crews struggled on Wednesday to reach remote towns affected by the quake and many have taken to digging out survivors using bulldozers and their bare hands, the Associated Press reports.

Dozens of homes in Amatrice collapsed during the earthquake
ANSA via AP

Authorities are struggling to do all they can to rescue survivors and uncover the dead following the quake and residents and even priests are digging through the rubble.

“We need chain saws, shears to cut iron bars, and jacks to remove beams: everything, we need everything,” civil protections worker Andrea Gentili told the AP.

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