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Italy Begins to Bury Quake Victims     08/27 10:06

   ASCOLI PICENO, Italy (AP) -- A young man wept over a little girl's white 
coffin, while a woman nearby gently stroked another small casket, as Italians 
bid farewell Saturday to victims of the devastating earthquake that struck a 
mountainous region of central Italy this 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 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 bid 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. Wednesday and was felt across a 
broad swath of central Italy, 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 
Wednesday, and hopes have faded of finding any more survivors.

   Before Saturday's mass funeral, the president visited Amatrice, the town 
that bore the brunt of destruction with 230 fatalities. Eleven others died in 
nearby Accumoli and 49 more in Arquata del Tronto, about 10 miles (16 
kilometers) north of Amatrice.

   Mattarella arrived by helicopter at the edge of Amatrice, a once-picturesque 
stone town. He was shown the extent of the damage by the mayor, Sergio Pirozzi. 
The president met and thanked rescue workers who have been working since early 
Wednesday.

   Saturday's mass funeral involved most of the dead from Arquata del Tronto, 
25 kilometers (16 miles) to the southwest of Ascoli Piceno. Other funerals took 
place Friday, with the majority still to come.

   Giulia's sister, Giorgia, was pulled alive from the rubble Wednesday after 
being buried for many hours. She turned 4 on Saturday and was recovering in a 
hospital next door to the site of the funeral.

   The bishop told mourners that, when the firefighters recovered the two 
sisters, they were holding each other.

   "The older one, Giulia, was spread out on the smaller one, Giorgia. Giulia, 
dead, Giorgia, alive. They were in an embrace," D'Ercole said.

   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, a resident of Ascoli Piceno who attended the 
funeral. "An event like this weakens you physically and mentally."

   Overnight, residents of the area were rattled yet again by a series of 
aftershocks. The strongest, at 4:50 a.m., had a magnitude of 4.2, according to 
the U.S. Geological Survey, while the Italian geophysics institute measured it 
at 4.

   The Italian institute and other authorities say the earthquake caused the 
ground below Accumoli to sink 20 centimeters (8 inches), according to satellite 
images.

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


(KA)

 
 
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