Italy earthquake: A country in mourning begins burying the dead

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Italy holds state funeral for earthquake victims
01:41 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

State funeral held on national day of mourning

Death toll climbs to 291

Ascoli Piceno, Italy CNN  — 

Italy began the painful task of burying its dead Saturday following a massive earthquake, as aftershocks rattled the heart of the country and the death toll climbed to 291.

Some of the mourners at a state funeral for Italy's earthquake victims were clearly in shock as they said goodbye to victims.

In the town of Ascoli Piceno, a local gym was transformed into a funeral hall, a basketball net the backdrop of the altar.

Survivors: ‘The future is finished’

Thirty-five coffins adorned with flowers and framed photographs sat in three rows for victims from the town of Arquata del Tronto in the state funeral. Taped at the foot of each coffin was a white paper with the name of the deceased.

READ: Historical treasures lost, damaged in Italian quake

Hundreds attended the state funeral and Catholic service to lay their loved ones to rest.

A woman at the funeral named Maria said she lost friends and family in the quake, and described how she and her husband used their bare hands to dig neighbors out of the rubble.

“Community is very important. In small villages like this. The relationship with the land and those you love, with our family, is very, very strong. It will be even stronger. We won’t give up,” she said.

Italy quake highlights our vulnerability to disasterFamily members clustered around each coffin before the service, a teenager sitting on the floor beside one, weeping inconsolably. One family encircled a coffin with peach-colored flowers and held each other in a long embrace.

Mourners grieve at Italy's state funeral for earthquake victims.

Hundreds of people attended the Catholic ceremony of prayers, Bible readings and hymns, many themselves survivors in casts and bandages. A wall hanging of Jesus on a crucifix overlooked the grieving community, as mourners fanned themselves in the stifling heat.

‘A new spring’

Among the coffins was one belonging to a young girl named Giulia Rinaldi. Bishop Giovanni d’Ercole, who led the ceremony, told the painful story of how Giulia was found dead on top of her younger sister, Giorgia, apparently shielding her sibling from the downfall.