Tears flow as burial of quake dead begins
ASCOLI PICENO (AP):
A young man wept over a little girl's white coffin, while a woman nearby gently stroked another small casket, as Italians bade farewell yesterday to victims of the devastating earthquake that struck a mountainous region of central Italy last week.
As Italians observed a day of national mourning, President Sergio Mattarella and Premier Matteo Renzi joined grieving family members for a state funeral for 35 of the 290 people killed in last Wednesday's quake.
Mourners, among them many injured, wept and held each other in a sweltering community gym in the town of Ascoli Piceno as the local bishop, Giovanni D'Ercole, urged them to rebuild their communities.
"Don't be afraid to cry out your suffering. I have seen a lot of this, but please do not lose courage," D'Ercole told them. "Only together can we rebuild our houses and our churches. Together, above all, we will be able to restore life to our communities."
Before the mass funeral, people hugged and cried as they bade their final farewells to loved ones in the gym, which was transformed into a makeshift chapel for the ceremony.
Among the victims were two girls, 18-month-old Marisol Piermarini and 9-year-old Giulia Rinaldo, whose younger sister survived against the odds beneath the rubble, still holding her dead sibling.
Hundreds of locals gathered outside to mourn and show support.
"It is a great tragedy. There are no words to describe it," said town resident Gina Razzetti. "Each one of us has our pain inside. We are thinking about the families who lost relatives, who lost their homes, who lost everything."
The magnitude-6.2 quake struck at 3:36 a.m. last week Wednesday, killing at least 290 people and injuring nearly 400.
The death toll has steadily risen as rescue workers continue to find bodies buried in rubble. Nobody has been found alive in the ruins since last Wednesday, and hopes have faded of finding any more survivors.