An official in Amatrice, Italy - which was devastated by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake on Wednesday (24 August) - says at least three Britons are known to have died. Earlier reports stated that foreign secretary Boris Johnson had confirmed a number of British people had been affected, but did not elaborate further.

At least 250 people are now known to have perished in the earthquake, which struck at 03:36 (02:36 BST) when many people were asleep. An unknown number are still trapped beneath the rubble as 5,000 rescuers attempt to dig them out, reportedly using their bare hands. The rescue effort has been hampered by severe aftershocks of up to 5.1 magnitude.

Volunteer Christian Bianchetti told Sky News: "Unfortunately, 90% we pull out are dead, but some make it, that's why we are here." The mayor of Amatrice, Sergio Pirozzi said: "The town isn't here any more. I believe the toll will rise."

The UK government has already pledged to send help. Boris Johnson said: "My deepest sympathies are with the Italian people and everyone affected by the terrible earthquake that struck central Italy.

"The British government has offered any assistance that we can to help with the recovery effort and I have spoken with Italian foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni to express my condolences personally," Johnson continued

The earthquake caused devastation in the area around Amatrice, where many of the buildings were old and not built to withstand such powerful earthquakes. The towns themselves were also much busier than usual because many people were visiting the region for the summer, although it is still unclear how many were in the area. However, it has been estimated that up to 3,000 people have been left homeless, with many sleeping in their cars and tents.

The tremors were felt as far away as Rome. A state of emergency has been declared and Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi said everything would be done to help the stricken region. "No family, no city, no hamlet will be left behind".

Italy Amatrice earthquake rescuers rubble
Rescuers work following the earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy in August 2016 REUTERS/Ciro De Luca