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Quake survivors celebrate Easter

Associated Press

Earthquake survivors Sunday sought comfort amid the tragedy that leveled their cities and killed hundreds of people as they celebrated Easter Mass in makeshift chapels across central Italy.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who attended a Mass for rescue workers and volunteers in L’Aquila, declared the emergency phase over, but said it would be months before most people displaced by the magnitude 6.3 quake would know if they can go back to their homes.

“Within two months we hope to certify which buildings can be inhabited and only then will we know how many citizens can return to their own homes,” Berlusconi said.

The mood was somber as about 150 faithful -- mostly elderly people -- celebrated the holiest day on the Roman Catholic calendar in L’Aquila’s main tent city, where the population has shrunk to 1,300 from 1,700 as many with means find a more comfortable place to stay.

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“Easter is the day of resurrection for us too, because we are starting from zero,” said quake survivor Corrado Mongelli, 50, an olive oil producer. “I have huge hope for restarting and having again a life like I had before.”

L’Aquila Archbishop Giuseppe Molinari, who celebrated Mass before a small statue of the Madonna and a crucifix hanging from a tent wall, acknowledged their anger over their losses.

“We are all a little bit angry with God because we never expected a tragedy this big,” he said. “But even anger toward God is a sign of faith.”

Many quake survivors, however, weren’t in the mood to celebrate.

Elsewhere in the main L’Aquila tent camp, people busied themselves with the routine of their improvised lives, waiting for breakfast, lining up for a shower. And in the city, people lined up to request that rescue workers go into their homes to fetch key documents and prized possessions.

One person died in the hospital Sunday, raising the death toll to 294. Six victims were to be buried Sunday, two days after a funeral for more than 200 people. L’Aquila fire chief Roberto Lupica said no one else remained officially missing.

Berlusconi said more than 1,000 buildings had been checked to determine whether they were safe, mostly public buildings and factories important to restart the devastated area’s economy. Only 152 residences have been checked.


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