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Quake survivors' fury over funeral plan leads to U-turn

By Frances D'Emilo

Published 30/08/2016

Rescuers pause in Amatrice, one of the towns hardest hit by the earthquake (AP)
Rescuers pause in Amatrice, one of the towns hardest hit by the earthquake (AP)

Italian quake survivors have rebelled in anger over the government's plan to hold a state funeral for their loved ones in an airport hangar in a distant town and let them watch it on screens in their emergency tent camp.

One relative of seven-year-old twins who perished in central Italy's quake on August 24 was so upset by the announcement he could barely speak, holding up seven fingers when explaining how old the children were.

The mayor of Amatrice, the hardest-hit of the three medieval towns flattened by the quake, was also upset.

Italian premier Matteo Renzi's government quickly reversed course, sensing a public relations disaster, and he said the latest state funeral will take place in the devastated Apennines hill town on Tuesday.

So far, 231 of the quake's 292 victims have been found in Amatrice, with the death toll rising by two yesterday when two bodies were extracted from rubble.

The bodies of some 10 people are believed to be still buried under the rubble of hundreds of buildings that collapsed, many reduced to piles of stones. Hundreds of people were injured.

A stream of ambulances last week brought more than 100 victims in body bags from Amatrice, and another hard-hit town Accumoli, to the airport at Rieti, 40 miles away.

They were being kept in refrigerated trucks parked in the hangar. Some relatives who live elsewhere in Italy had sent hearses with coffins to claim their loved ones' bodies for funerals elsewhere.

But nearly 80 bodies that families hoped would be buried near Amatrice or Accumoli remained at the hangar, and now, after the government relented, the corpses were going to be transferred back to the town.

Amatrice mayor Sergio Pirozzi told a crowd that Mr Renzi had just spoken with him by phone.

"He granted the people's appeal," said the mayor.

Mr Renzi tweeted almost simultaneously: "The funeral of the victims of the earthquake will be held at Amatrice as the mayor and local community have asked. And right that it is so."

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