State funeral in Amatrice honours 37
An Italian bishop issued a sharp critique of the suspected shoddy construction behind the high death toll of Italy's earthquake and warned during a state funeral yesterday that the rebuilding effort must not become a "looting" of state coffers.
"Earthquakes don't kill. What kills the most is the work of man," Rieti Bishop Domenico Pompili told the weeping crowds gathered in the shadow of Amatrice's ruins for the funeral for some of the 292 victims.
Wails echoed under the roof of the open-sided tent as Pompilli read aloud the names of the 242 people killed in the towns of Amatrice and Accumoli at the start of the service. And the crowd erupted in applause a common gesture at Italian funerals when a bunch of white balloons was released at the end of the service.
Civil protection officials said only 37 caskets were on hand since many families opted for private funerals elsewhere. Another 50 people were killed in neighbouring Le Marche region where a state funeral was held on the weekend.
The 37 caskets faced the altar in rows, two little white caskets sandwiched between larger ones - evidence of the many children who were killed in the quake while enjoying the final days of summer. Relatives placed bouquets on the caskets and sat next to them quietly as a steady rain fell outside.
In his homily, Pompilli insisted that there was no choice but to rebuild Amatrice and Accumoli since abandoning the towns would "kill them a second time". But he warned that the reconstruction effort must not become "a political fight or a looting of various forms".
Italy has a long history of organised crime and corrupt builders infiltrating public works contracts, especially those earmarked for reconstruction after natural disasters. Prosecutors have opened an investigation into the August 24 quake since many buildings crumbled despite having been renovated with public, anti-seismic funds.
The ANSA news agency said Rieti chief prosecutor Giuseppe Saieva ordered Amatrice's collapsed elementary school to be sequestered and entrusted Italy's financial police with investigating how public funds destined for anti-seismic renovations across the region were used.
The school collapsed during the quake despite being renovated in 2012 using earthquake funds. In addition, the church tower in nearby Accumoli collapsed on a home, killing a family of four, despite also having been recently renovated with earthquake funds.