ASCOLI PICENO (Italy) • Italy marked a day of national mourning yesterday for 290 people killed in a quake that devastated parts of its mountainous heart, holding a state funeral for 35 of the victims.
As political leaders gathered for the funeral mass, rescuers kept searching through the rubble of the worst-hit town of Amatrice, even though they had little hope of finding more survivors of Italy's worst quake in seven years.
Nine more bodies were recovered from the town yesterday, including three that were pulled out from the collapsed Hotel Roma, bringing the death toll in Amatrice alone to 230 residents and tourists.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella flew to the town by helicopter yesterday to see the damage before travelling on to the nearby town of Ascoli Piceno for the funeral service held in a sports centre.
Some 35 varnished wood coffins were lined up in the sports hall, including white caskets containing the remains of two of the 21 children killed.
The youngest victim was five months old. The oldest was 93.
Foreigners who died included six Romanians, three Britons, a Spanish woman, a Canadian and an Albanian. The area is popular with holidaymakers and the local authorities are still struggling to pin down how many visitors were there when the quake hit.
Mourners gathered in Ascoli Piceno hours before the service was due to begin to pay their respects.
"Even if I didn't know them, my heart broke for them," said local resident Luciana Cavicchiuni.
Most of the buildings in the quake zone had no anti-seismic protection, but some of those that did, including a school in Amatrice that was renovated in 2012, fell apart.
Magistrates have opened an investigation into some of the incidents, including the collapse of a bell tower in the town of Accumoli, which smashed through the roof of an adjacent building, killing a family of four.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who also attended the funeral, has promised to rebuild the shattered communities.
Amatrice mayor Sergio Pirozzi told Mr Mattarella: "What we need is a reconstruction in record time.
"It is a great opportunity for politicians to show extraordinary commitment."