Hopes Of Finding Italy Quake Survivors Fade

As aftershocks continue to hit quake zone, Friday is declared day of mourning.

ByABC News
April 9, 2009, 9:30 AM

L'AQILA, Italy, April 9, 2009 — -- Over 72 hours since the 6.3 magnitude quake hit the area of l'Aquila, hopes of finding more survivors caught in the rubble are fading.

Last night, more bodies were pulled out of the pile where previously a student dormitory stood. One of the bodies recovered was that of Luca Lunari, a 20-year-old student in computer science from Rieti, central Italy, and father of a 7-month-old baby girl whom he had with his 16-year-old girlfriend. As attempts were made to recover his body from the mountain of debris, tremors shook the earth all around.

"How are we going to pull him out if the earth keeps shaking? My poor son!" cried Luca's mother, who had, according to the local Italian newspaper, Il Tempo, been searching for her son's body in l'Aquila since Monday. Exhausted and choked up with grief, Luca's parents now face attending his funeral, scheduled to take place tomorrow alongside the other victims of the earthquake. For now, his body, along with others, lies at the Guardia di Finanza school.

The focus of the rescue operations is gradually changing direction from rescue to reconstruction. The death toll has now climbed to 279, a number that is expected to rise through the day. Approximately a dozen people are still missing.

Tomorrow, known as Good Friday in the Christian calendar, which solemnly commemorates the crucifixion of Christ -- has also been declared a national day of mourning in Italy.

In an unprecedented move, the Vatican declared that a mass funeral of the earthquake's victims should take place that same day. Normally no masses are conducted on Good Friday as it is a day of somber contemplation. Breaking with convention, Pope Benedict has allowed for the funerals to take place in the open air at the Civil Protection Forces headquarters. All the churches throughout the area have been deemed too unsafe for any ceremonies to be held inside.

The Pope's personal secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, will be attending the Good Friday mass funeral, "as a sign of the Pope's personal closeness to those who are suffering because of the earthquake," said Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi today. The funeral itself will be led by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, with the participation of all the bishops of the Abruzzo region. The archbishop of l'Aquila, Giuseppe Molinari, will conduct the homily, a commentary during the mass which is expected to focus on the fallout from the earthquake.