Af­ter fu­neral plan met with fury, Italy re­lents

Baltimore Sun - - WORLD - By Frances D’Emilio

ROME — Ital­ian quake sur­vivors re­belled in anger Mon­day over the gov­ern­ment’s plan to hold a state fu­neral for their loved ones in an air­port hangar in a dis­tant town, where scores of bod­ies are be­ing kept in re­frig­er­ated trucks, and let them watch it on screens from near their emer­gency tent camp.

One rel­a­tive of 7-year-old twins who per­ished in cen­tral Italy’s Aug. 24 quake 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.

“Give us back our dead!” yelled one man in the crowd of sev­eral dozen sur­vivors.

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

So far, 231 of the quake’s 292 vic­tims have been found in Ama­trice, with the death toll ris­ing by two Mon­day af­ter­noon 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.

Last week, a stream of am­bu­lances brought more than 100 vic­tims in body bags from Ama­trice and an­other hard-hit town, Ac­cu­moli, to the air­port at Ri­eti, 40 miles away. There they were be­ing kept in re­frig­er­ated trucks parked in the hangar. Some rel­a­tives who live else­where in Boys walk through a tent camp Mon­day in cen­tral Italy, where last week’s earth­quake cre­ated a hous­ing cri­sis. Italy had sent hearses with coffins to claim a loved one’s body 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 Renzi had just spo­ken with him by phone. “He granted the peo­ple’s ap­peal,” the mayor said.

Later, Renzi told state TV: “There were so many polemics, but it’s ab­so­lutely right the peo­ple be able to weep for their dear ones in their place, their vil­lage.”

Renzi’s of­fice later an­nounced that he had de­clared Tues­day as a day of na­tional mourn­ing.

The fu­neral will be held at the edge of Ama­trice’s oblit­er­ated me­dieval town cen­ter, on the grounds of a Catholic re­treat home for el­derly and oth­ers seek­ing a quiet respite in the moun­tains.

The same com­plex has a makeshift morgue, with about 10 corpses still in­side await­ing of­fi­cial iden­ti­fi­ca­tion.

On Sat­ur­day, a first day of na­tional mourn­ing had seen a sep­a­rate state fu­neral, for 35 vic­tims from other towns. That ser­vice was held Sat­ur­day in As­coli Pi­ceno, a town un­scathed by the quake. Renzi, as well as Italy’s pres­i­dent and other of­fi­cials, at­tended that fu­neral.

Sur­vivors are also stressed over where they will stay when chilly au­tumn ar­rives soon in Ama­trice, a town that lies 3,300 feet above sea level. Sum­mer evenings re­quire jack­ets there, and snow can come as early as Oc­to­ber.

With thou­sands left home­less af­ter the earth­quake, au­thor­i­ties are de­bat­ing how to pro­vide warmer, stur­dier hous­ing for them be­sides the rows of emer­gency blue tents.

Nearly 2,700 quake sur­vivors need­ing shel­ter have been stay­ing in 58 tent camps or at other shel­ters ar­ranged by Italy’s Civil Pro­tec­tion agency. Oth­ers are sleep­ing on a bas­ket­ball court in Ama­trice’s gym or sleep­ing in cars near their dam­aged homes. Those who could have fled to rel­a­tives’ homes far from the quake-stricken re­gion.

Italy’s lob­by­ing group for farm­ers, Coldiretti, said Mon­day that farm an­i­mals, most of them sheep and cows, also need warm shel­ters at night, since 90 per­cent of the stalls and barns in the Ama­trice area have been dam­aged.

CRIS­TIANO CHIODI/ANSA

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