Survivors of Italy's devastating earthquake had little to celebrate as Easter Sunday dawned yesterday after many salvaged what they could from their abandoned homes.
On Saturday, rescue workers said no one remained in the missing column as hundreds of the newly homeless, clutching empty bags and suitcases, waited to be escorted to their ruined homes.
Many refugees from the devastated town of L'Aquila voiced fears of looting following several arrests since the quake on Monday that claimed at least 293 lives, as shown by the latest police toll.
Some 600 police officers were patrolling the walled city founded in the 13th century, the capital of the Abruzzo region with a population of some 70,000.
“I want to find our two cats and pick up some clothes,” said Riccardo Copersini as he waited in line. “Anything else would be extra.”
Also in the line was Vincenzo Rizi, an engineering professor at L’Aquila’s university.
“We all need to rebuild our lives,” he said simply.
Engineers meanwhile began assessing the damage to the estimated 10,000 buildings hit by Monday’s earthquake and the European Commission said construction experts will arrive in the region early next week.
“It's really a difficult situation. It will take a long time,” said Gennaro Tornatore, a fire service chief coordinating rescues. “We're trying to get the situation under control. We’ve got 125 firefighters working on it.”
Strong aftershocks continued to jolt the region, where some 40,000 people have lost their homes. Local administration chief Massimiliano Cordeschi said 18,000 people had registered for inspections of their homes so far.
Italy's space agency, comparing satellite radar images taken before and after the earthquake, said on Saturday that the earth in the region of L’Aquila had shifted by up to 15cm.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was set to attend an Easter mass in L’Aquila yesterday and other masses were planned in the many tent camps set up in and around the city.
Easter Sunday, the most joyous day on the Christian calendar, celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion.
At a mass funeral for the victims on Friday, Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone told survivors that Easter Sunday would “once again be a rebirth from the rubble for a people who have already suffered so many times.”
But at one of the tent camps near L'Aquila, 70-year-old Anna Parisse said she was not looking forward to the holiday in the current situation.
“Unfortunately, we're going to have to celebrate Easter here. It's not going to be the same. I want to be at home with my family,” Parisse said.
She also voiced skepticism about Berlusconi's promises of aid, saying: “I don't trust him ... He just says whatever comes into his head.”