Italy mourns quake victims, death toll rises to 291

Italy mourns quake victims, death toll rises to 291

Rome, Aug 28 (IANS) Italy on Saturday observed a day of national mourning for the people who died when a powerful 6.2-magnitude earthquake hit the mountainous central regions claiming the lives of 291 persons.

Flags flew at half mast across Italy as the country remembered the victims of the quake.

The death toll in the worst-hit town Amatrice was 230, while the number of victims in Accumoli and Arquato del Tronto were 11 and 50 respectively, Xinhua reported.

Authorities have released the names of 181 victims. The youngest was five months old, the oldest 93.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi attended state funerals for victims from Arquata, one of the worst-hit towns along with Amatrice, Accumoli and Pescara del Tronto that were also hard-hit.

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

Most victims of the earthquake were Italians, but several foreigners were among those killed, including three Britons.

A state of emergency was declared on Friday in affected areas and 50 million euros (about $55 million) in funds pledged for rebuilding, the BBC reported.

Many bodies were brought to a makeshift morgue in an aircraft hangar in the city of Rieti, where authorities and relatives are identifying them.

The first funeral for one of the earthquake 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 rendered homeless, the BBC noted.

The Italian government had been criticised for failing to prevent deaths after the 2009 earthquake in nearby L’Aquila killed 300 people.

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

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

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