A state funeral for 37 earthquake victims has been held in Amatrice with Italy's prime minister and president in attendance. Rainfall has hampered continued efforts to locate bodies underneath rubble.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and President Sergio Mattarella attended an evening service on Tuesday in Amatrice to honor those who lost their lives in last week's deadly earthquake.
It is the second state funeral to be held for victims and the first one to take place in Amatrice - the hilltop town hit hardest by the 6.2 magnitude earthquake on August 24. Out of the 292 people killed last week, 242 died in Amatrice and the nearby town of Accumoli.
Thirty-seven flower-draped coffins were present at Tuesday's service as the names of the dead were read out. Some of the victim's families opted to hold private funerals, as many were tourists visiting the area.
Romania's prime minister, Dacian Ciolos, was also present on Tuesday to pay his respects to the 11 Romanians who lost their lives. They were not, however, among the 37 given funeral rites, the Romanian embassy told news agency DPA.
A first mass funeral was already held on Saturday for victims in the neighboring Le Marche region.
A town in mourning
Local bishops conducted the funeral mass at an altar using ceremonial pieces retrieved from damaged local churches - scenes of devastated, collapsed buildings behind them.
An 84-year-old retired priest from Amatrice, Father Luigi Aquilini, said he helped identify some of those who were killed.
"Most of them were crushed. You couldn't recognize their faces, so we had to understand who they were from their rings, their tattoos," Aquilini said. "Buildings can be rebuilt, but the community? Families were shattered...so many children died."
A total of 21 children died during the earthquake. Two small, white coffins were also present during the Amatrice ceremony.
Amatrice residents had threatened to boycott Tuesday's funeral service, as it was originally scheduled to be held at an airport hangar in the city of Rienti, which is located 60 km (37 miles) away. Officials defended the decision, saying it would be logistically difficult to bring officials and relatives to the town with only one serviceable road.
Following the backlash, Renzi reversed his decision late on Monday.
A summer storm sprang up prior to the evening funeral service, with pouring rain adding to the somber mood. The weather also hampered efforts to recover several more bodies trapped under collapsed buildings.
Around 10 people are still missing, according to the ANSA news agency.
Italian officials have faced growing criticism in the wake of the earthquake over poor construction techniques which could have caused some of the deaths.
An elementary school in Amatrice collapsed during the earthquake, despite being remodeled in 2012, in part to help it withstand such natural disasters.
"Earthquakes don't kill, the work of man does," said Rieti Bishop Domenico Pompili during Tuesday's state funeral, referencing Italy's lax building standards.
rs/kms (AP, dpa, Reuters)