BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Russian Polish Albanian Greek Czech Ukrainian Serbian Turkish Romanian
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Europe  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Sunday, 3 November, 2002, 13:46 GMT
Italy quake 'angels' laid to rest
Italian police carry the coffin of one of the victims
Applause and wailing greeted the sight of the coffins
An emotional mass funeral has been held in the devastated Italian village of San Giuliano di Puglia, which lost an entire class of children in Thursday's earthquake.

Twenty-six small white coffins were lined up under a marquee as local community and political leaders said goodbye to the children.


On behalf of all mums and dads, we give to the Lord these angels of ours, the angels of San Giuliano

Grieving mother
The children and their teacher were killed when their primary school collapsed. Two other women lost their lives during the earthquake in the southern Italian town.

Applause punctuated by wailing greeted the coffins - bedecked in white flowers, some with a toy or a message - as they were carried from a sports hall turned mortuary to a large tent.

The funeral service was held there as the village's church was also damaged in the tremor and then the coffins were taken up a hill to the cemetery for burial.

Correspondents say the grief of the children's parents was being shared across Italy, with almost every family expected to watch the funeral on live television.

Open in new window : Italy quake
Pictures from the scene of the school tragedy

Questions remain about why the relatively modern school was the worst hit building in the mediaeval town, and why the children were still there when earlier tremors had led to school closures elsewhere.

San Giuliano has now been evacuated completely, with residents sent to friends or family elsewhere or living in tents erected in a valley below the village.

But the mass funeral has brought everyone back to the devastated area, along with Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, who earlier visited a hospital where some of the children pulled alive from the rubble of their school are being treated.

A toy dog on top of one of the children's coffins
Parents placed toys, photos and messages on their children's coffins
Monsignor Tommaso Valentinetti, one of six bishops to hold the funeral ceremony with the village's priest, addressed the president when he pleaded for San Giuliano not to be forgotten once the dead were buried.

"I want to say one last thing to those who are representing the state, public life: help us more than ever to keep a watchful eye for those tragedies not to happen, to prevent them, for such a terrible experience never to be repeated.

"Help us in keeping a watchful eye, help us in prevention."

Mother's wish

His plea was echoed by one of the grieving parents, Nunziatina Porrazzo who told the service: "On behalf of all mums and dads, we give to the Lord these angels of ours, the angels of San Giuliano.

"They are close to us, we are lucky because we have their faces close to us," she said through tears.

"I ask only one thing from all of you: for our schools to be safer.

"I absolutely want no mum or dad to mourn their children any more."

The Christian names of all the victims - including an entire class of six-year-olds - were read by Monsignor Valentinetti at the makeshift altar as the congregation listened in sad silence.

The service was held outside to avoid any risk of mourners being hurt by loose debris from the village's buildings, which have been heavily damaged, as aftershocks continue to shake the region.

Investigations

State prosecutors have begun investigating whether manslaughter or criminal negligence charges should be brought over the collapse of the school.

Earth quake victim sits under a wooden cross in a tent camp
It may be months before some families can get back to their homes
There is rising anger among local people following the discovery that local bureaucrats had failed to take any action despite the area being designated a medium-risk earthquake zone as recently as four years ago.

However, prosecutor Maria Teresa Perna said no individual was yet under investigation for the collapse of the 50-year-old school, which had only recently been modernised.

The Italian Government is to hold an emergency cabinet meeting later on Sunday to vote for new funds for earthquake relief.

A total of 8,000 people have now been evacuated from towns across southern Italy, with families taken to makeshift tent cities set up by civil authorities.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Brian Barron reports from San Giuliano
"It was a state funeral in one of Italy's poorest corners"

Key stories

Background

TALKING POINT

AUDIO VIDEO
See also:

02 Nov 02 | Media reports
01 Nov 02 | Europe
01 Nov 02 | Europe
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes