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Earthquake survivors celebrate Easter Day

EARTHQUAKE survivors sought comfort from the tragedy that leveled their cities and killed hundreds as they gathered for Easter Sunday Mass yesterday in makeshift chapels erected throughout the quake-stricken zone of central Italy.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi arrived for Mass in L'Aquila with firefighters, many of whom had to deal with the loss of their own loved ones or property as they responded to the 6.3-magnitude temblor that killed 294 people, left about 40,000 homeless and leveled thousands of buildings.

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 declined to 1,300 from a peak of 1,700 as many with means find a more comfortable place to stay.

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

A traditional Easter meal of lamb was planned, and children were given large, cellophane-wrapped chocolate Easter eggs.

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

Last Saturday about 700 people were brought to their residences, where they directed rescue workers which items to retrieve, L'Aquila fire chief Roberto Lupica said.

Lupica said no one else remained missing, but he did not rule out the possibility of finding further bodies as the work of clearing the rubble continued. One person died in the hospital yesterday, raising the death toll to 294, news agency ANSA reported.


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