Relatives of those missing in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in central Italy, which has claimed the lives of at least 240 people, have begun queuing outside a makeshift morgue in the town of Amatrice as they search for signs of their loved ones.

The city, which has borne the brunt of the destruction in the wake of the 6.2 magnitude quake, has been left half destroyed. Its historic centre has been annihilated by the earthquake, and with its narrow single road blocked by debris, Amatrice has been cut in two.

Outside one still standing local government building, distraught relatives wait to enter a room where the dead have been laid out. "Yesterday, unfortunately, we saw a long queue of families in front of the place where all the dead bodies were," Tommaso Della Longa, the communications director for the Italian Red Cross, told IBTimes UK.

Della Longa explained that in the small mountain city, the queues of scores of people waiting to find their dead were very long. "Forty to fifty people for a whole city like that it is a big number," he said.

As Italy comes to terms with the destruction and a death toll that is predicted to rise as search and rescue efforts continue, stark comparisons have been made to the country's 2009 L'Aquila earthquake, which claimed 300 lives.

Della Longa, who is now working for the second time in an emergency search and rescue effort in his own country, said the two disasters don't bear close comparison but for those caught in the earthquake, the result is "worse than a nightmare".

"It is difficult to accept that in 140 seconds, in two or three minutes you lose everything," he said.

The Red Cross, as well as sending search and rescue teams to the earthquake zone, has offered psychological support to those grieving or searching for their loved ones. Della Longa described the shock of two parents he had spoken with still unable to accept their young children had died in their home.

"They were completely shocked, sometimes crying, sometimes silent. Their mother didn't accept what had happened, sometimes she was talking about these kids in the present like they were alive," he said.

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In a small, tight-knit community like Amatrice the earthquake has touched everyone, so much so that after the Red Cross' own representative in the city had recovered his own dead relatives from the rubble, he began digging with his hands to rescue others.

"If it is possible to say something positive during a tragedy like this, it is that all the people were really showing solidarity to each other. Today the workers could be seen digging with their hands to find the others," he said.

While the voices below the rubble went silent within 48 hours of the earthquake, the search and rescue efforts will continue. Della Longa is optimistic that survivors will still be found, explaining that in the past the living have been pulled from the rubble 70 hours after an earthquake.

Identifying the last of the dead could take weeks, but it is impossible to say exactly how long. "Every case is different," Della Longa explains. The Red Cross will be in Amatrice for months, aiding in reconstruction and providing food and aid.