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Page last updated at 19:01 GMT, Wednesday, 8 April 2009 20:01 UK

Italy buries first quake victims

Funeral service for earthquake victim Giuseppe Chiavaroli, in Loreto Aprutino, central Italy (08/04/2009)
Thousands of people attended the first two funerals of quake victims

The first funerals have been taking place for victims of the powerful earthquake which struck Italy's central Abruzzo region on Monday.

More than 270 people are now known to have died in the quake and about 28,000 were made homeless, officials say.

No survivors have been found since late on Tuesday and the relief effort has moved on to helping the survivors.

A mass funeral will be held in the regional capital L'Aquila on Friday on a day of mourning across the country.

The Bishop of L'Aquila, Giuseppe Molinari, will conduct the mass, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said.

Pope Benedict XVI said he would visit the region "as soon as possible".

On Wednesday, thousands of people attended the funeral of 25-year-old student Danilo Ciolli, in the town of Carovilli in the Molise region.


A whole generation cancelled out
Antonella Massi, L'Aquila resident

In Loreto Aprutino in Pescara, the funeral was held for Giuseppe Chiavaroli, a 24-year-old student and footballer.

Residents lined the streets of the town, breaking into applause as a mark of respect as Mr Chiavarolli's coffin was carried into the church.

In L'Aquila, one resident said people were shocked to have lost so many loved ones.

"The town has been reduced to rubble with over 40 dead and lots of them were young," said Antonella Massi.

"A whole generation cancelled out."

Warning to looters

Silvio Berlusconi vows to take tough action on anyone caught looting

Speaking at a press conference in L'Aquila on Wednesday, Mr Berlusconi said some 17,700 people were sheltering in temporary camps set up by the authorities.

A further 10,000 were in other accommodation, he said.

Mr Berlusconi said he was concerned by reports of looting and was planning to introduce new legislation to impose "very severe punishment" on people caught committing the crime.

"Whoever is low enough to try to take advantage of a tragedy like this shows a total lack of morals and will be very severely punished," he said.

Troops will also be deployed to guard vacant homes, said Mr Berlusconi.

During an earlier visit to a camp, Mr Berlusconi caused controversy by comparing the experience to a "a weekend of camping.

Tremors

The Pope has praised rescuers, the police and the Italian authorities for their work after the quake.

Damage to the L'Aquila Duomo church in central Italy (06/04/2009)

He said the rush to help those affected demonstrated "how important it is to have this solidarity in order to get over these painful moments".

"I wish to tell that population the Pope shares your pain and your worries. I hope to visit you as soon as I can," he said.

About 150 people have been pulled alive from the rubble but rescue efforts have been hampered by the aftershocks.

At least seven strong shocks hit the region during the night, killing one person and waking people from their sleep in the tent shelters.

The tremors brought down masonry from already damaged buildings and one tremor was felt as far away as Rome.

The authorities say it is difficult to know when the tremors will end.

Firefighters' co-ordinator Gennaro Tornatore told AFP that his colleagues were "risking their lives" working amid the rubble in such conditions.

Uninhabitable

Rescue efforts were given a boost late on Tuesday when a 20-year-old woman was pulled alive from the rubble after being buried for 42 hours.

Map

But while rescuers had earlier expressed hope that more people could be found alive, that now appears increasingly unlikely.

Cristian Martinez of Spanish rescue organisation Unidad Canina said his team of rescue dogs had not detected any signs of life in the debris

"It all depends on the conditions, if the person under the rubble has any air or water," he said.

"But we don't give up hope."

The emphasis of the rescue operation will slowly shift to salvage and clearance, the BBC's Dominic Hughes reports from L'Aquila.

One man, the uncle of a student believed buried under the ruins of university accommodation, said in such circumstances, "hope dies last".

"But what can you really hope for here? The building just fell into the ground," he said.

Between 3,000 and 10,000 buildings are thought to have been damaged in L'Aquila, making the 13th-Century city of 70,000 uninhabitable for some time.

The head of the Italian Red Cross, Francesco Rocha, said it could be months or even years before all the displaced people could return to their own homes.



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