Image: Spanish rescue team and a dog in L'Aquila, Italy
Luca Bruno  /  AP
A member of a Spanish rescue team searches through rubble in L'Aquila, Italy, on Wednesday.
updated 4/8/2009 3:47:45 PM ET 2009-04-08T19:47:45

Bells tolled in hilltowns across central Italy on Wednesday as the first funerals got under way for victims of Italy's earthquake. The Vatican granted a dispensation so a funeral Mass for most of the 272 dead could be celebrated on Good Friday.

As more bodies were pulled from the rubble, some of the 28,000 homeless spent another day lining up for food and water at tent camps that have sprouted up around this quake-devastated city.

Pope Benedict XVI said he would visit the area soon.

Rescue efforts continued for the 15 people still missing, but officials began discussing rebuilding the fallen region and reopening schools. They stressed it would take a month or two to have a clear idea of the scope of the damage.

"For now the needs are basic. The people in the camps, they don't have toothbrushes, they don't have toothpaste," said Massimo Cialente, mayor of the hard-hit city of L'Aquila. "You can't find a place to buy cigarettes or get a coffee."

The magnitude-6.3 quake hit L'Aquila and several towns covering 230 square miles in central Italy early Monday, leveling buildings and reducing entire blocks to piles of rubble. It was the worst quake to hit Italy in three decades.

The death toll stood at 272, six of whom hadn't been identified, the ANSA news agency reported, citing carabinieri police. Sixteen of the dead were children, Premier Silvio Berlusconi said.

Of the injured, 100 remained in serious condition, he said.

Madonna pledged $500,000 in quake relief, said Fernando Caparso, the mayor of Pacentro, the mountainside village where two of the pop star's grandparents were born.

Survivor's tale
One 98-year-old survivor, rescued by firemen in the hamlet of Tempera, 30 hours after quake, impressed Italy with her fortitude.

Maria D'Antuono said in an interview on private Italia Uno TV network that while she lay in her bed, surrounded by pieces of fallen plaster, she passed the time by crocheting.

When firefighters arrived to help her out of her home, she ate some crackers, and then told her rescuers, "At least let me comb my hair" before she was brought outside.

Two people were arrested for looting Wednesday in the nearly leveled town of Onna, the ANSA news agency said, citing police. They had an estimated $105,000 worth of merchandise.

Berlusconi said looting in the quake zone was on the rise and that the government was considering an increase penalties. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told reporters that anti-looting police patrols would also be stepped up.

Burying the dead
On Wednesday, the first funerals got under way for the victims, including for Giuseppe Chiavaroli, 24, a a soccer player for Fiorentina's lower-division team who was killed along with his girlfriend in Monday's quake.

Relatives and friends gathered in his hometown of Loreto Aprutino, 28 miles from the hard-hit city of L'Aquila, for the funeral Mass.

As church bells tolled and onlookers applauded in the typical Italian gesture of mourning, players from his team carried his casket, his sky-blue soccer jersey draped on top.

"We will try to be strong," his father Tomasso Ciavaroli said.

The Vatican's No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone was to celebrate a funeral Mass for the bulk of the victims on Friday, Vatican officials said.

The Vatican granted a special dispensation for the Mass to be celebrated since Good Friday, which marks Jesus' death by crucifixion, is the only day in the year in which Mass in not celebrated in the Roman Catholic church.

The funeral is expected to be held in an outdoor square at a police training school in L'Aquila, the Vatican said. "At the moment, there is no church in L'Aquila which can be used," because they are all so damaged, said Vatican spokesman the Rev. Ciro Benedettini.

On Wednesday, two bodies were pulled from the partially collapsed dormitory in L'Aquila where two more people were believed still trapped, ANSA reported. The Israeli Embassy confirmed one of the bodies recovered was an Israeli student from Galilee.

Two others were pulled from the wreckage of a building where a 20-year-old woman was rescued late Tuesday, ANSA said.

Video: Seeking quake survivors in Italy

Papal visit
The Vatican said Benedict would visit the affected area sometime after Easter Sunday and that he does not want to interfere with relief operations. The pope praised the aid operations as an example of how solidarity can help overcome "even the most painful trials."

"As soon as possible I hope to visit you," Benedict said Wednesday at the Vatican.

Of the 28,000 people homeless, 17,700 were being housed in tent cities, spending much of their time on line — waiting for food and to use the bathrooms. They spent a second night in chilly mountain temperatures, sometimes without heat in their tents and being jolted by aftershocks.

Conditions were expected to worsen by Thursday, when rain and thunderstorms were forecast for the quake area.

An additional 10,000 people were housed in hotels along the coast.

Since the quake early Monday, some 430 aftershocks have rumbled through the region, including some strong ones, said Marco Olivieri of the National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology in Rome.

"I slept so badly because I kept feeling the aftershocks," said Daniela Nunut at one of the tent camps set up across the city of L'Aquila. The 46-year Romanian-born woman said she and her companion plan to stay in the tent for now. "What can you do? You can't go into the building."

A supermarket, though, is expected to open on Wednesday and officials were trying to make sure a doctor was available in pharmacies to write prescriptions, Cialente, the mayor, said.

How to rebuild
In another indication that officials were trying to look beyond the immediate crisis, Berlusconi said he was considering asking each of Italy's 100 provinces to pick a reconstruction project around the region to take charge of.

He also said a new town could be built on L'Aquila's outskirts, primarily to house young people. He stressed it would not be an alternative to rebuilding L'Aquila, but rather to add to the city's housing stock.

AIR Worldwide, a specialist in estimating catastrophe risks, said Wednesday that insured losses to residential, commercial and industrial buildings and contents from the earthquake could be as high as euro400 million ($530 million).

In addition to the 17,700 homeless in tent cities, an additional 10,000 people were housed in hotels along the coast, bringing the overall number of homeless to almost 28,000, Berlusconi said.

About 140 inmates at L'Aquila's prison were transferred overnight to nearby prisons because the facility was damaged in the quake, Berlusconi said.

'We don't give up hope'
Interior Minister Maroni said the rescue efforts would likely continue until Easter Sunday, beyond the period originally indicated by Berlusconi.

"It all depends on the conditions, if the person under the rubble has any air or water," said Cristian Martinez, from the Spanish rescue organization Unidad Canina, whose dogs have been sent across the world after quakes and other catastrophes.

So far, the dogs had found no signs of any living humans in the debris. "But we don't give up hope," said Martinez, adding that his dogs had once found somebody alive 11 days after a quake in Pakistan.

Officials said some 10,000 to 15,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed in the 26 cities, towns and villages around L'Aquila, a city of 70,000 that is the regional capital of Abruzzo.

Teams started inspecting some buildings still standing Wednesday, including an 18th-century church in downtown L'Aquila, which had been damaged. Teams also began surveying houses to see if residents can move back in, Berlusconi said.

More on Italy | earthquakes

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Photos: Italy in mourning

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  1. Mourners attend the state funeral ceremony for earthquake victims, in L'Aquila, on Friday, April 10. The earthquake on Monday was the deadliest to hit Italy in almost 30 years. Four days after the quake that made L'Aquila and nearby towns and villages uninhabitable, the death toll reached 287, including at least 20 children. (Peri - Percossi / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi reacts as he attends the funerals for quake victims near L'Aquila, central Italy, on Friday. (Luca Bruno / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A woman and her son leave a rose during the state funeral ceremony for eathquake victims near L'Aquila, on Friday. (Alessandro Garofalo / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Relatives mourn the victims of the earthquake during the collective funeral at the Guardia di Finanza Academy, in Coppito, a village near L'Aquila, Italy, on Friday, which was declared day of national mourning in Italy. (Marco Di Lauro / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A man walks through rubble in L'Aquila, Italy. (Maurizio Degl'innocenti / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A woman reacts in a tent camp where earthquake victims reside in Aquila. A series of aftershocks disrupted rescuers on Thursday as they picked through rubble in a search for survivors of Monday's earthquake in central Italy. (Alessandro Garofalo / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Mario Tudisco, a volunteer clown, gives a chocolate Easter egg to a child who was evacuated following the earthquake, in the Abruzzo capital L'Aquila. (Andreas Solaro / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. The coffin of earthquake victim Carmelina Iovine, 22, is carried during her funeral in the Italian town of Raiano. (Daniele La Monaca / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Friends and relatives grieve during the funeral of earthquake victim Carmelina Iovine, 22, in the Italian town of Raiano. (Daniele La Monaca / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Silvio Berlusconi, wearing a firefighter's helmet, comforts an elderly woman in L'Aquila, central Italy. (Livio Anticoli / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Firefighter Roberto Contu of the Rome's S.A.F team inspects the damaged Duomo church downtown Aquila April 8, 2009. The earthquake in central Italy on Monday has badly damaged several historic churches and other heritage sites, the Culture Ministry said. At least four Romanesque and Renaissance churches and a 16th century castle were partially destroyed by the quake centred in the medieval city of L'Aquila. (Alessandro Garofalo / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A woman holds her child in the tent camp of L'Aquila, central Italy, on Wednesday, as strong aftershocks caused further fear among residents in temporary shelters. As rescue teams continued searching through the debris for survivors, the homeless emerged from their tents after spending a second night in chilly mountain temperatures. (Luca Bruno / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Most of the village of Onna, Italy, lay in ruins on Tuesday. Forty of the town's 300 residents died in Monday's quake. (Max Rossi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. A crane lowers a rescue worker looking for survivors inside a building in L'Aquila on Tuesday. (Filippo Monteforte / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Rescuers search the debris of a building in L'Aquila on Tuesday. (Vincenzo Pinto / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A firefighter cries after finding his dead stepdaughter in the rubble of a collapsed building in L'Aquila. (Giampiero Sposito / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Some of the people who were evacuated after the earthquake spent the night in a gym at L'Aquila's recreation center. (Mario Laporta / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Tent cities were set up around the quake zone, including this one in the village of Paganica. (Sandro Perozzi / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A woman, still alive 20 hours after an earthquake, is carried by rescue volunteers in the Abruzzo capital L'aquila, Italy. Rescuers scrambled in the dark to find survivors from the powerful earthquake in central Italy that killed at least 150 people, as thousands of homeless sought shelter in hastily built tent cities. (Giulio Piscitelli / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Rescuers with a sniffer dog search for survivors Monday in the village of Castelnuovo, Italy, one of two dozen communities devastated by the quake. (Alessandra Tarantino / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. People evacuated from their home in L'Aquila protect themselves from the rain with a blanket. The city was the hardest hit, with thousands of buildings torn apart and dozens killed. (Mario Laporta / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A nun among the homeless joins other evacuees at an outdoor shelter in L'Aquila. (Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. People line up for food at an outdoor shelter in L'Aquila as darkness approached. (Pier Paolo Cito / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. These are among the thousands of homes destroyed in L'Aquila by the earthquake that left tens of thousands homeless. (Guardia Forestale via AP / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. A child is comforted by a Red Cross rescuer at a camp set up just outside L'Aquila. (Filippo Monteforte / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. The Anime Sante church in L'Aquila was among the historic treasures damaged or destroyed in the quake. (Pier Paolo Cito / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Rescue workers remove an injured woman from her home in the small town of Onna. (Massimiliano Schiazza / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. A car is buried in rubble in the Onna. Most of the town's homes were destroyed, and its residents made homeless. (Massimiliano Schiazza / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi and Guido Bertolaso, the head of Italy's Civil Protection agency, discuss the tragedy at a command center in L'Aquila. (Livio Anticoli / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Residents across central Italy, including these elderly women in L'Aquila, stayed outside Monday, fearing more building collapses. (Grillo / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Two men console one another Monday whlie others prepare to comb debris for potential survivors in L'Aquila. (Pier Paolo Cito / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Rescue workers carry the body of a nun found in the rubble of a collapsed monastery in Paganica, Italy. (Giampiero Sposito / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Residents of L'Aquila comfort one another after the quake destroyed much of the city. (Filippo Monteforte / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. A doctor unpacks a rescue kit next to a collapsed building and buried vehicle in the center of L'Aquila. (Filippo Monteforte / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. A car is seen precariously close to a large hole in a road caused by the earthquake in L'Aquila on Monday. (Peri - Percossi / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Rescue workers carry an injured man away from his house in L'Aquila. (Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Workers remove debris on Monday in the center L'Aquila. (Vincenzo Pinto / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Luigi d'Andrea, 20, collects belongings from the debris of an apartment in L'Aquila . (Christophe Simon / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. A police officer stands in the center of L'Aquila on Monday. (Filippo Monteforte / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. A firefighter comforts a colleague near a collapsed building in L'Aquila on Monday. (Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Patients are treated outside the St. Salvatore Hospital in L'Aquila. Parts of the hospital were evacuated because it was at risk of collapse, forcing the wounded to be treated in the open air or taken elsewhere. (Gregorio Borgia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Blanketed against the morning cold, a couple stand amid rubble in the center of L'Aquila. (Vincenzo Pinto / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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