The number of people killed in an earthquake that has wrecked parts of central Italy rose to 284 on Saturday, as the country started a day of mourning and prepared for a mass funeral for some of the victims.
A further two bodies were found overnight in the worst-hit town, Amatrice, which was flattened by Wednesday’s powerful quake causing the deaths of at least 224 residents and tourists.
Although rescuers continued to scour the mounds of rubble — all that remains of most buildings — there was little hope of finding survivors.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella flew to Amatrice by helicopter on Saturday to see the damage first hand before traveling on later in the morning to the nearby city of Ascoli Piceno for the funeral of up to 40 of the victims.
Mourners gathered at a sports center in the city, where 35 coffins were lined up by early Saturday.
“Even if I didn’t know them my heart broke for them. My thoughts are with them because there are people who have lost everything, homes, loved ones and the sacrifices made in life,” said local resident, Luciana Cavicchiuni.
“These things should not happen,” she said.
Aftershocks continued to rattle the area overnight, the strongest measuring 4.2. The Italian geological institute said some 1,332 aftershocks have hit Italy’s central mountains since Wednesday’s predawn 6.2 magnitude quake.
(Additional reporting by Iona Serrapica; Writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Susan Fenton)