Funeral service held for quake victims as Italy mourns dead

Funeral service held for quake victims as Italy mourns dead

A funeral service has taken place for some of the 290 people killed in a powerful earthquake in central Italy, as the nation observed a day of mourning for the victims.

The funeral Mass for 35 people was led by Bishop Giovanni D'Ercole in a community gym in Ascoli Piceno, with the coffins laid out in rows and adorned with photographs and flowers.

Mr D'Ercole told mourners, who wept and held each other, to find courage to rebuild their homes and communities.

"Don't be afraid to cry out your suffering - I have seen a lot of this - but please do not lose courage," he said.

"Only together can we rebuild our houses and our churches. Together, above all, we will be able to restore life to our communities."

The funeral was held as officials increased the death toll to 290 as more victims were pulled from the ruins.

The worst hit town was Amatrice, which now has 230 confirmed deaths. It is there that the death toll has been rising. Elsewhere, 11 were killed in Accumoli and 49 in Arquato del Tronto.

President Sergio Mattarella and Premier Matteo Renzi attended the funeral service, and before it began Mr Mattarella visited the town of Amatrice.

He arrived by helicopter at the edge of the town and was guided around by mayor Sergio Pirozzi, who showed him the extent of the damage.

Funeral service held for quake victims as Italy mourns dead

The president also met and thanked rescue teams, who have been working since the quake struck early on Wednesday to save people trapped in rubble, and recover the dead.

Due to the vast extent of the damage, the president could survey the damage only from the outskirts because it is too dangerous to enter the sealed-off, once-picturesque town centre.

It is feared the death toll may yet rise further in Amatrice as rescuers continue to pick through the ruins of the town. Several people remain unaccounted for.

Overnight, residents of the area were rattled yet again by a series of aftershocks. The strongest, at 4.50am local time, had a magnitude of 4.2, according to the US Geological Survey.

Italian scientific authorities say satellite images show the ground below Accumoli sank 20cm due to the initial earthquake, which had a magnitude of 6.2.

Many of the people left homeless have been spending their nights in tent cities where volunteers have been working to provide basic amenities.

As Italy observes the day of mourning, flags flew at half-mast and those hit hardest by the tragedy expressed their grief.

"It is a great tragedy. There are no words to describe it," said Gina Razzetti, a resident of Ascoli Piceno who joined hundreds of local people for the funeral.

"Each one of us has our pain inside. We are thinking about the families who lost relatives, who lost their homes, who lost everything."

Two children being mourned at the funeral were an 18-month girl, Marisol, and nine-year-old Giulia, whose sister was miraculously pulled from the rubble after being buried for several hours. The surviving child, Giorgia, turned four on Saturday.

Many children and elderly people were killed. Some of the older residents had grandchildren visiting in the last days of summer.

"The melancholy grabs on to your heart, you feel a sense of weakness, of depression," said Fiore Ciotto, another resident of Ascoli Piceno.

"An event like this weakens you physically and mentally."

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