Prayers for earthquake victims in Italy from San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood

Images of the earthquake damage in Itally filled television screens in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood, the cultural center for the city's Italian expats and Italian-American communities.

Evening prayers at the Sants Peter and Paul Church facing Washington Square were focused on Italy's earthquake victims. The Church's vicar, Father Albert Mengon said they wanted to pray for those souls who lost their lives. Italy's civil protection agency said the death toll had risen to 247 victims.

"Definitely the earthquake in Italy is something that we want to pray for and especially this community because North Beach has been an Italian community for a long time," said Father Mengon.

The stones and stained glass of the Saints Peter and Paul Church rose after the destruction of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake here. It is a parish that shares a bond with Italy.

"The Salesian priest who built the church of Saints Peter and Paul in North Beach was from Abruzzi," Father Mengon said.

That same Abruzzi region of Italy is now among the areas devastated by this week's earthquake.

Alessandro Iacobelli is from Rome and is the owner of Pantarei restaurant in North Beach.

"When it hits so close to your house, something wakes up that you're like, wait a minute. It touched me too close because now it's really a close call," Iacobelli said, "My mom and dad, they live in Rome, so they woke up because the house was shaking."

His friends and family are all fine, but the scenes of suffering pull at his heart. He said he is organizing a fundraising dinner at his restaurant for Monday at 7p.m. and plans to donate all proceeds to disaster relief efforts in Italy.

"You want to help. Somehow you want to help. But you're on the other side of the world," Iacobelli said.

A world, some say, that does remember in moments of deep pain and loss, the deepest humanity and compassion that exists within people.

"We pull our energies together and help out and there is no evil without some good," Father Mengon said.

Iacobelli is holding a fundraising dinner at his restaurant Panatarei on Monday and says all proceeds will be donated to disaster relief.

Staff at the Italian Consulate in San Francisco said they have a hotline for people trying to locate someone in the areas of Italy hit by the earthquake. That emergency hotline is: +39-06-82888850. More information can be found here