Italy earthquake: Day of national mourning for victims

A day of national mourning has begun in Italy for the almost 300 people who died when a powerful earthquake hit mountainous central regions.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is due to attend state funerals in the regional capital, Ascoli Piceno, for victims from the town of Arquata.

President Sergio Mattarella visited Amatrice, the town with the most casualties, on Saturday morning.

The death toll rose to 284 as more bodies were found overnight.

The authorities say they will continue to search until they are certain everyone is accounted for.

Most victims were Italian, but several foreigners were among those killed, including three Britons.

Rescue efforts have been hampered by hundreds of aftershocks, with one severely damaging a key bridge into Amatrice.

“Let’s hope it doesn’t collapse or the town will be cut off from both sides,” said Mayor Sergio Pirozzi.

More aftershocks were registered in the early hours of Saturday, one with a magnitude of four.

The ground beneath Accumoli, another severely affected village, sank 20cm (8in) as a result of the earthquake, satellite images obtained by Italy’s scientific authorities show.

Flags are due to fly at half mast across the country on Saturday as the country remembers victims of the quake.

More than 200 people died in Amatrice alone. Along with Arquata and Accumoli, Pescara del Tronto was also hard-hit.
First funeral

Many bodies have been brought to a makeshift morgue in an aircraft hangar in the city of Rieti, where relatives have been identifying loved ones.

The first funeral for one of the earthquake’s victims was held on Friday, for the son of a state official who died in Amatrice.

At least 388 people have been treated in hospital for their injuries while more than 2,000 people were made homeless.

The 6.2-magnitude quake hit in the early hours of Wednesday, 100km (65 miles) north-east of Rome.

Italy’s government has been criticised for failing to prevent deaths after the 2009 earthquake in nearby L’Aquila left 300 dead.

Historic towns do not have to conform to anti-quake building regulations, which are also often not applied when new buildings are put up.

In addition to emergency funds, Mr Renzi cancelled taxes for residents and announced a new initiative, “Italian Homes”, to tackle criticism over shoddy construction.

But he also said that it was “absurd” to think that Italy could build completely quake-proof buildings.

Source: BBC

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