Amatrice, the remote hilltop town worst hit by an earthquake in central Italy last week, held a state funeral for its dead yesterday, the second such ceremony for victims of the disaster.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and President Sergio Mattarella were among the dignitaries at the evening service, officiated in the grounds of a Catholic institute just outside the flattened town centre.
Thirty-seven coffins, including two white ones for young children, were lined up under a large canopy protecting hundreds of mourners from rainy weather.
Each casket, bearing a name and a number, was covered with messages and flowers.
At the start of the service, the names of the dead were read out.
A Christ figure was hanging over the altar, behind which one could see a panorama of collapsed buildings.
A relic from the patron saint of Amatrice, the Madonna of Filetta, was retrieved from a damaged church and taken to the Mass.
Renzi visited survivors camped out in the Umbrian town of Amatrice before the funeral.
Romanian Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos also attended the Amatrice service.
Eleven Romanians were among the quake dead, but they were not among the 37 given funeral rites, the Romanian embassy in Rome told DPA.
Some 242 people died in Amatrice and nearby Accumoli, but not all were given a state funeral.
Families of other victims opted for private functions; many of them were tourists who were buried in their home towns, officials said.
Last week’s earthquake killed at least 292 people, including 50 in a third municipality, Arquata del Tronto.
Thirty-five of its dead had a state funeral on Saturday, also attended by Renzi and Mattarella.
The calamity has left thousands of people homeless.
Italy’s civil defence agency, Protezione Civile, said more than 3,500 people slept overnight in makeshift camps.
The number has increased steadily in recent days, as people stop sleeping in cars or in damaged homes.
Meanwhile, prosecutors in the provincial capital Rieti ordered the seizure of Amatrice’s elementary school, which collapsed despite renovations in 2012 that should have made it quake-proof.
On Monday there were fierce protests over a decision, later retracted, to move the Amatrice funeral to Rieti, out of practical considerations.
Heeding complaints by survivors, Renzi aborted the plans.
That left the Protezione Civile to deal with the logistical challenge of organising a large ceremony in a half destroyed town, with road access to it severely restricted due to earthquake damage, with less than 24 hours’ notice.
In Amatrice, firefighters were still looking for people trapped under collapsed buildings, which were packed with tourists ahead of an annual festival for the local Amatriciana pasta dish.
According to the Ansa news agency, 10 people are unaccounted for.
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