by Silvia Marchetti
L'AQUILA, Italy, April 12 (Xinhua) -- Earthquake survivors on Sunday celebrated an open-air Easter Mass in the tent city of L'Aquila in the central Italian region of Abruzzo amid ruins and anguish.
Early in the morning, hundreds of volunteers and brown-robed Capuchin monks prepared traditional Easter food for refugees in the tent and set out tables and chairs.
The mood was somber. About 150 homeless participated in the celebration in L'Aquila where 1,300 people are still living. Archbishop Giuseppe Molinari called on people to get united in face of the suffering.
A meal of lamb was served and children were given traditional chocolate Easter eggs and dove-shaped cakes.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and President of the Chamber of Deputies Gianfranco Fini also attended the celebration.
Berlusconi has been visiting the earthquake area every day since Monday when the 5.8-magnitude earthquake jolted L'Aquila. Hehas promised local residents that the government would not abandon them.
The prime minister said the government would decide to take emergency measures to help the quake-stricken region. A government decree will be issued to tackle the situation.
"The decree will contain financial aid for the local population and building reconstruction," Berlusconi said.
"In two months' time, the homeless will leave the open-air camps. Once we have certified which buildings can be inhabited, we will know how many citizens can return to their own homes or are in need of a new house," he said.
More than 1,000 buildings, mostly public buildings, have been checked to determine whether it is safe, the premier said. Only 152 private residences have been examined, of which 25 are schools.
"We will do all we can to bring the people out of the tents," he said. "It's our duty to make them comfortable in better places."
According to Berlusconi, more than 55,000 homeless people have been provided with temporary housing after Monday's earthquake. Nearly 22,000 stayed in hotels and private homes and another 33,306 in 106 tents.
Berlusconi said that never before in the last 15 years had he felt proud of being an Italian.
"We will not commit the same mistakes as in the past. First we will bring the people back to their houses, then we'll go on thinking of Abruzzo's reconstruction".
"The emergency phase is over" even if after-shocks continue to occur but with lesser intensity, Berlusconi said.
However, some quake victims found themselves still in no mood to celebrate Easter. The presence of institutional leaders also gave hope to the homeless people.
Luigi Farda, 35, who fled to the coastal town of Pescara after the quake, said his anguish remains as deep as before.
"Many people I knew are dead, for two nights, my family and I were forced to sleep in the car. Today it doesn't feel like Easterbut a day of suffering," he said.
Meanwhile, the number of quake victims has risen to 294 and the work to search for victims has suspended.
Berlusconi also thanked the countries that had offered help in the region's reconstruction phase.
He said a G8 meeting on sustainable development would be held in the Abruzzo city of Pescara next month.
According to the prime minister, the first school will open Thursday in the village of Poggio Picenza.
The government has also set up a special hotline to help reconstruction in the quake-affected Abruzzo region.
ROME, April 11 (Xinhua) -- Italian police said Saturday that the death toll from the earthquake in central Italy's Abruzzo region has risen to 293 while about 40,000 people were left homeless.
Officials from the Italian Civil Protection Department said rescue efforts were continued Saturday while hopes had been dim for people still beneath the ruins of buildings on the sixth day after the quake, local media reported. Full story
L'AQUILA, Italy, April 10 (Xinhua) -- More than 8,000 weeping mourners took part in national funerals on Friday for 289 victims of the earthquake that hit the capital L'Aquila of Abruzzo region, central Italy. Full story
ROME, April 7 (Xinhua) -- A strong aftershock with a magnitude of 5.5 to 5.7 on the MMS scale was felt in Italy's Abruzzo region as rescue operations entered into the second day on Tuesday. While death toll rose to more than 200. Full story
ROME, April 6 (Xinhua) -- An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.3 rocked central Italy early Monday morning, damaging buildings in the epicenter, some 95 km northeast of Rome, local media reported. Full story
BEIJING, April 7 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Hu Jintao on Tuesday sent a message of condolences to his Italian counterpart Giorgio Napolitano over the heavy loss of life and property in a deadly earthquake that struck central Italy.