Italy earthquake: Mourners urged to rebuild shattered community at state funeral

Italy begins a day of national mourning as rescue workers continue to search through rubble

Italy earthquake: Mourners urged to rebuild shattered community at state funeral

Relatives and friends mourn during the state funeral service of some of the earthquake victims in Ascoli Piceno | Photo: PA Images

Mourners wept and held each other this afternoon during a state funeral for some of the victims of the Italian earthquake.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and President Sergio Mattarella were at the service for 35 people from the tiny hillside villages of Arquata and Pescara del Tronto.

The death toll from Wednesday's 6.2-magnitude quake now stands at 290.

During the funeral service, held in a gymnasium in Ascoli Piceno, Bishop Giovanni D'Ercole urged mourners to unite and rebuild their shattered community.

"Don't be afraid to cry out your suffering but do not lose courage," Fr D'Ercole said.

"Together we will rebuild our houses and church.

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

Two of the coffins were painted white for two children killed.

The youngest victim is an eight-month-old girl whose mother survived the devastating earthquake that struck L'Aquila in 2009.

Flags have been lowered to half-mast as Italy observes a national day of mourning.

Several funerals were held on Friday and a common funeral service for the dead in the hard-hit towns of Amatrice and nearby Accumoli will take place next Wednesday.

Relatives of some of the dead visited an airport hangar in the regional capital of Rieti on Friday to see the bodies of their loved ones that had been taken there.

 

A woman touches a coffin of one of the victims of Wednesday's earthquake, inside a gymnasium in Ascoli Piceno | Photo: PA Images

 

Search operation

At least 388 people remain in hospital, with about 40 of them in a critical condition. 

Several of those killed were foreigners, including three Britons and up to eight Romanians, thousands of whom are living in the area.

Spain, Canada, Albania and El Salvador each said that one of its citizens had perished and a further 21 Romanians are missing.

More than 4,000 professionals and volunteers have been taking part in the rescue effort.

Mr Renzi has praised the effort they have put in to rescue 215 people, but it is feared not many more will be found alive.

No one has been pulled alive from the piles of collapsed masonry since Wednesday evening.

Many of those who survived but were rendered homeless have gone to live with relatives in Rome and elsewhere but more than 2,000 who could not have been spending the night in tent villages.

Officials said they were afraid the devastation would mean the end of the towns.

Paolo Cortelli, a member of the Alpine Rescue service that recovered about 30 bodies from Pescara del Tronto, said his group had done all it could.

"We have removed the last bodies that we knew about," he said. 

"We don't know, and we might never know, if the number of missing that we knew about actually corresponds to the people who were actually under the rubble."