Accessibility links

Breaking News

Italy Holds Mass Funeral for Earthquake Victims

Mourners hug each other during a state funeral for some of the victims of last Wednesday's earthquake, in Amatrice, central Italy, Aug. 30, 2016.

Italy on Tuesday held a mass funeral for some victims of last week's earthquake amid the ruins of Amatrice, the small town that bore the brunt of the disaster.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and a senior representative of Pope Francis were among hundreds of mourners at the service held in driving rain.

At the start of the service, Rieti Bishop Domenico Pompili read aloud the names of the 242 people killed in the towns of Amatrice and Accumoli.

He used the occasion to chastise the suspected shoddy construction behind the high death toll.

"Earthquakes don't kill. What kills the most is the work of man,'' Pompili told the weeping crowds.

He said the area must be rebuilt, because not doing so would "kill them a second time.'' But he also warned that the rebuilding effort must not become a "looting'' of state coffers.

Italy has a long history of organized 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 earthquake, in which many buildings crumbled despite having been renovated with public, anti-seismic funds.

Civil protection officials said only 37 caskets were on hand because many families opted for private funerals elsewhere. Another 50 people were killed in neighboring Le Marche region, where a state funeral was held over the weekend.

Family members had threatened to boycott the service after they learned officials planned to hold it in Rieti, more than 60 kilometers away.

The bodies originally were taken to Rieti because officials said it would be easier to hold a mass funeral there than in Amatrice, but Renzi ordered a change of plan in the face of public anger.

In the center of Amatrice, voted one of Italy’s most beautiful areas last year, crews continued to dig for bodies under mounds of rubble left by the 6.2-magnitude quake.