Italians began burying its dead Saturday after a 6.2-magnitude earthquake in the heart of the country claimed the lives of 290 people, including 230 in the town of Amatrice. Thirty-five coffins were taken to a gym in Ascoli Piceno province to hold the state funeral. Even as families and politicians honored the dead, more aftershocks were happening, and rescuers continued to work through them.
A national day of mourning was declared, and President Sergio Mattarella visited Amatrice, the town which was hit the most by the massive earthquake, before arriving at the funeral. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi also attended. The politicians made sure to reach every single family who was there to mourn their loved ones and the president also visited an emergency camp in Accumoli and Pescara del Tronto, according to CNN Affiliate RAI.
Many of the survivors in casts and bandages were among the hundreds of people who attended the Catholic ceremony of prayers, which included Bible readings and hymns. The 35 coffins laid out in the gym included two of the 21 children who are known to have passed away the night of the earthquake.
“Don’t be afraid to bewail your suffering, we have seen so much suffering. But I ask you not to lose your courage,” said Bishop Giovanni D’Ercole, who led the ceremony.
The bishop told the story of Georgia, a 10-year-old girl who was one of the last people to be found alive under the rubble. She spent 17 hours trapped beneath the ruins before crews found her in Pescara del Tronto. Unfortunately, her nine-year-old sister Giulia was found dead on top of her. The little girl’s coffin lay in the center of the gym for the funeral.
Angelo Moroni, a firefighter who took part in Georgia’s rescue, told Italian ANSA news agency that rescue workers “exploded with joy” after finding her alive. He added that hoped the girl forgets everything about the disaster. Her parents were also pulled out alive.
“At times like that you don’t think, you go on for hours without feeling thirst or tiredness. We were sure she was safe only when we put her on a stretcher and doctors carried her away. Then we exploded with joy for this great result,” Moroni said, according to ANSA.
Three corpses that were left on Saturday from the crumpled Hotel Roma in Amatrice were among the nine bodies recovered that day when the death toll rose to 230 residents and tourists in the town known for its annual spaghetti festival.
Italian authorities have released the identities of 181 victims so far. The oldest was 93 years old, the youngest five months old. Almost 50 of the dead came from the capital Rome, where further funerals will be held next week.
The deadliest earthquake in seven years also claimed the lives of six Romanians, three Britons, a Canadian, an Albanian, and a Spanish woman.
The Italian geological institute reported that 1,332 aftershocks had hit the mountains in central Italy since Wednesday, which makes the rescue efforts even more challenging. The strongest aftershock measured 4.2. However, rescue workers are quickly losing their hopes to find more survivors because experts believe the chances drop considerably after a 72-hour period.
Affected families forced to live temporarily in camps
The Italian Council of Ministers allocated 50 million euros (some $56.5 million) in funding as it approved a state of emergency on Thursday for regions hit by the quake.
More than 2,000 people in need of food and shelter took refuge in makeshift camps after their homes were flattened. The country’s civil protection agency informed that 2,100 people were living in the camps and that more would be built to welcome those who desperately need a place to stay.
The tragedy may not have been just a matter of fate
Most of the old stone buildings in Amatrice, a town which does not exist anymore, lacked anti-seismic protection and even a school that was renovated four years ago fell apart. A belltower in Accumoli also collapsed and killed a family of four as it smashed through the roof of their building.
An investigation has been opened into some of the incidents and prosecutor Giuseppe Saieva, who leads the probe, said fate cannot be considered the answer.
“If these buildings had been constructed like they are in Japan then they would not have collapsed,” Saieva told la Repubblica newspaper.
Sergio Pirozzi told President Mattarella that there must be a reconstruction in record time and that politicians should see this as a chance to show their commitment, according to a report by the Huffington Post.
Central Italy’s tourism industry was deeply affected by the quake as 293 pieces of cultural heritage were damaged, according to CNN affiliate RAI. Fifty of them were destroyed.
Among the structures which suffered damage were a Roman Catholic cathedral in Urbino, historic buildings and city walls in Nursia, a Cathedral in San Giuliano. The Basilica of St. Francesco and the church of Sant’Angostino in Amatrice partially collapsed.