Italy holds funeral for 35 quake victims

Mourners gather for funerals of some of the victims of Wednesday's earthquake in Italy.

A mass funeral is taking place in Italy for some of the 284 people killed in Wednesday’s powerful earthquake.

Thirty-five victims from the town of Arquata were mourned at a sports hall in the regional capital, Ascoli Piceno.

The coffins, laid out in rows on the floor, include two painted white for two children killed.

The death toll from the quake, which struck a mountainous central region, has again risen as more bodies were found.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was among those attending the funeral along with President Sergio Mattarella, who had visited Amatrice, the town with the most casualties.

Bishop Giovanni d’Ercole urged those affected not to lose courage.

“Together, above all we will restore life to our communities, starting from our traditions and from the rubble of death,” he said.

Most victims were Italian, but several foreigners were among those killed, including three Britons.

Rescue efforts
Rescue efforts have been hampered by hundreds of aftershocks, with one severely damaging a key bridge into Amatrice.

“Let’s hope it doesn’t collapse or the town will be cut off from both sides,” Mayor Sergio Pirozzi said.

More aftershocks were registered in the early hours of Saturday, one with a magnitude of four.

The ground beneath Accumoli, another severely affected village, sank 20cm as a result of the earthquake, satellite images obtained by Italy’s scientific authorities show.

Flags are flying at half mast across the country as Italy remembers victims of the quake.

More than 200 people died in Amatrice alone. Along with Arquata and Accumoli, Pescara del Tronto was also hard-hit.

Many bodies have also been brought to a makeshift morgue in an aircraft hangar in the city of Rieti, where relatives have been identifying loved ones.

The first funeral for one of the earthquake’s victims was held on Friday, for the son of a state official who died in Amatrice.

At least 388 people have been treated in hospital for their injuries while more than 2,000 people were made homeless.

The 6.2-magnitude quake hit in the early hours of Wednesday, 100km (65 miles) north-east of Rome.

Criticism
Italy’s government has been criticised for failing to prevent deaths after the 2009 earthquake in nearby L’Aquila left 300 dead.

Historic towns do not have to conform to anti-quake building regulations, which are also often not applied when new buildings are put up.

In addition to emergency funds, PM Renzi cancelled taxes for residents and announced a new initiative, “Italian Homes”, to tackle criticism over shoddy construction. But he also said that it was “absurd” to think that Italy could build completely quake-proof buildings.

BBC/Mercy Chukwudiebere