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National Day Of Mourning Commences In Italy After Earthquake


Italian authorities say now that 290 people have been confirmed to have died after Wednesday's earthquake. This morning, the president of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, arrived by helicopter to the hardest hit hilltop village of Amatrice. He thanked rescue workers who have labored night and day to find survivors. Three more dead were pulled out from the rubble overnight.


UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing in foreign language).

SIMON: This morning, a state funeral was held in a gymnasium in a large town in the region. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley was there. Eleanor, thanks for being with us, and please tell us what you saw.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Well, Scott, the funeral - the state funeral - was held in a gymnasium. It was packed. Thirty-five caskets were laid out. And the prime minister of Italy, Matteo Renzi, sat with the Italian president in the front row. People cried and hugged each other, and an orchestra played.

The bishop of this town, Ascoli Piceno, he spoke. He told people not to be afraid, to cry out their suffering. At the same time, he told them not to lose courage. He said that only together can we rebuild our houses and our churches and restore life to our communities. And then the bishop, he talked about the earthquake a lot, the terremoto. And here he is speaking.

ASCOLIA PICENO: (Speaking Italian).

BEARDSLEY: Scott, it was very interesting. He talked about nature. He said, nature is wise and we must commune with nature and not provoke it relentlessly.

SIMON: And you were able to talk to some of the people who were there at the funeral. How are they doing at this point, a few days after the earthquake?

BEARDSLEY: Well, thousands were, you know, coming by foot and pouring in. And the overflow crowd was held - there was a church next door where they had screens set up. People watched from there. And there was a little amphitheater next to the church where there was also a giant screen, and there were olive trees and people were trying to, you know, get in the shade. It's very hot. You know, people say that it is very important to be together. At one point, the priest read out the names of the victims and people clapped. I spoke with one woman, Raphaela Baiocchi, and she said it's very important that people communed today. And here's what - here she is.

RAPHAELA BAIOCCHI: We are participating all our pain for our population, and it's not the first time to our people, no? You know that Italy is a very beautiful and dangerous place, and so we are here to share the pain today. Then we will speak about other things.

BEARDSLEY: Now, Scott, those other things she said we would speak about - she said justice. There's a growing anger about the construction of some of the buildings that collapsed. OK, granted, many are medieval, but there are earthquake codes that have to be followed.

For example, one belltower rebuilt 10 years ago collapsed and killed a family. And the Italian prosecutor in charge of the quake investigation says what happened can't simply be chalked up to nature. He said if buildings had been built like they were in Japan, they would not have collapsed.

SIMON: NPR's Eleanor Beardsley. Thanks so much for being with us, Eleanor.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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