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Death Toll From Italy Quake Rises

Rescue teams have pulled more bodies from buildings shattered by Monday's deadly earthquake in central Italy as hope for finding more survivors fades.

The Italian news agency ANSA put the latest death toll in the city of L'Aquila and surrounding towns and villages at 272.

Hundreds of aftershocks continue to shake the region, scaring survivors and making rescue efforts difficult

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said that 16 of those killed were children. He said the quake left about 28,000 people homeless. Many are living in tent camps and eating from field kitchens.

Funerals for the first of the victims got underway Wednesday, ahead of a mass state funeral on Friday.

Pope Benedict says he plans to visit the area as soon as possible. Vatican officials say the trip will come shortly after the Easter holiday on Sunday.

A spokeswoman for pop star Madonna says the singer has pledged cash to help the stricken village of Pacentro, birthplace of two of her grandparents.

U.S. scientists measured Monday's quake at magnitude 6.3. President Barack Obama telephoned Mr. Berlusconi to express condolences. The president said the United States is ready to help the Italian people in their time of need.