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Candlelit march as Amatrice bells toll for Italy quake dead


A photo shows a view of the remains of Amatrice on August 23, 2017 a year after a deadly earthquake left nearly 300 people dead and destroyed the small town. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE

At exactly 3:36 am on Thursday, the town clock in Amatrice rang 249 times in memory of the number of people who died there last year in an earthquake that devastated central Italy at exactly that moment.

The 6.0 magnitude quake which ripped through communities in the rugged, hilly region in the early hours of August 24, 2016, claimed a total of 299 lives and still haunts the country.

The disaster razed much of Amatrice, claiming the lives of 249 people who lived there and in the neighbouring village of Accumoli.

Just before midnight, residents paid their respects to each of the victims by reading out their names as well as an anecdote about their life in a two-hour ceremony punctuated by applause.

They then gathered for a silent candlelit march which began at the local football pitch, where last year’s mass funerals were held, which wound its way through the streets where many houses still lie in ruins.

Amatrice Mayor Sergio Pirozzi also unveiled a memorial to the dead called Fidelis Amatrix, after the words engraved on an ancient local coin.

Other villages and hamlets where another 60 people died will hold their own ceremonies later on Thursday, with memorials planned in Accumoli, Arquata del Tronto and Pescara del Tronto.

Amatrice was observing a day of mourning on Thursday with locals joining a mass late morning which was also attended by Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

The quake devastated a huge area, causing damage to homes, schools, hospitals and churches costing an estimated 23.55 billion euros ($27.7 billion).

Three more violent quakes hit the same region in late October as well as one in mid-January that wiped out a hotel, killing 29 people.

On Monday, a relatively small 4.0-magnitude quake levelled several houses on Ischia, an island off Naples, killing two people.

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