Israeli fatality from Italy quake buried

Hussein Hamada found in L'Aquila dorm ruins; pope urges survivors to keep up hope; death toll: 289.

italy earthquake 2 248.88 (photo credit: )
italy earthquake 2 248.88
(photo credit: )
Israeli medical student Hussein Hamada, who was killed in Monday's earthquake in central Italy, was buried in the Muslim cemetery in his home town of Kabul, in the Western Galilee, on Friday afternoon. Rescue teams found Hamada's body under the ruins of his dormitory in the town of L'Aquila on Wednesday. Hamada's father, Amin, who flew to Italy following the earthquake, identified the body of his son, one of 289 people killed in the disaster. Hamada, 23, had been studying at the University of L'Aquila for 14 months. L'Aquila, a town of some 73,000 and the capital of the Abruzzo region, is about 100 km. northeast of Rome and near quake's epicenter. Hamada was apparently in the suite he shared with other Israeli students when the quake hit. In Italy Friday, sobbing mourners gazed on coffins adorned with mementos of the dead - a boy's toy motorcycle, a baby's blue T-shirt - comforting each other as they said farewell at a funeral mass for the quake victims. In a message delivered at the exceptional Good Friday Mass, Pope Benedict XVI urged survivors of the devastating quake, Italy's worst in three decades, to keep up hope. The 6.3-magnitude temblor struck at the start of Holy Week, heightening the sense of suffering in the deeply Roman Catholic country. "This is the time to work together," the pope said in a message read by his secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein. "Only solidarity will allow us to overcome this painful trial." Weeping mourners in the front row bowed their heads, their shoulders moving up and down as they sobbed. A few traced their fingers on the caskets neatly lined up on the vast military ground in the quake-stricken city of L'Aquila. Others stared out blankly at the sea of flowers. Firefighters, rangers and other rescue workers stood solemnly, their hands clasped in front of them. Paramedics responded when one mourner collapsed. Amid the rows of coffins, five small white caskets of the youngest victims rested on those of their parents. They held mementos of their short lives: a boy's toy motorcycle and a baby's powder blue T-shirt with a Tweetie Bird design. Twenty children and teenagers were among the dead. The youngest victim would have turned five months on Easter Sunday. The Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, presided over the Good Friday funeral Mass for about 200 of the dead. Some of the 289 victims had already been buried privately. Two bodies were located in the rubble as officials prepared for the funeral. An imam briefly took the stage to address the relatives of an unknown number of Muslim victims. He also offered encouragement to all the mourners, who quietly applauded when he finished speaking. Premier Silvio Berlusconi and other key government officials were among the 10,000 people attending the outdoor ceremony beneath Abruzzo's snowcapped mountains. The funeral was being held outdoors because none of the region's churches was stable enough for the ceremony. Berlusconi comforted mourners, shaking hands and giving hugs before the ceremony began. "Today will be a moment of great emotion. How can one not be moved by so much pain?" Berlusconi said, shortly before departing for L'Aquila for the funeral. "These are our dead today, they are the dead of the whole nation," said the premier. Friday was declared a national day of mourning and many shops across the country were closed during the funeral service. Volunteers guided grieving relatives to the caskets of their loved ones. Each of the simple varnished wooden coffins, graced with either a cross or a crucifix and with a bouquet of flowers, bore a golden plaque with the name of the deceased, the dates of their birth and death. A woman grieved over a casket draped in soccer jerseys and holding the silver-framed photo of a smiling young man with thick blond hair. The Vatican granted a special dispensation for the Mass. Good Friday, which marks Jesus' death by crucifixion, is the only day in the year on which Mass in not normally celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church. Benedict, who noted that the quake was felt at the Vatican, is to travel to the region sometime after the Easter holiday. "Today is a 'Via Crucis' for each of us," said Stefania Pezzopane, one of the top officials of this medieval city in central Italy. The "Via Crucis," or "Way of the Cross," is the procession held on Good Friday in commemoration of Jesus' suffering before crucifixion. The quake struck Monday at 3:32 a.m., catching many in their sleep. It reduced entire blocks to piles of rubble. L'Aquila was among the hardest hit, but the quake damaged some 26 towns in the central mountainous region of Abruzzo. On Thursday, L'Aquila took a halting step toward normalcy as butchers, bakers and other shopkeepers reopened for business and firefighters began entering buildings to grab essential items for the homeless. Aftershocks, including some strong ones, continued to rattle residents - nearly 18,000 of whom are living in tent camps around the stricken region. An additional 10,000 have been put up in seaside hotels, out of the quake zone, and the Italian railway provided heated sleeping cars at L'Aquila's main train station, where nearly 700 people spent the night. Firefighters surveyed for damage as far away as Rome, 60 miles west of the quake's epicenter. On Wednesday, a day after sending a letter of condolences to Berlusconi, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke with his Italian counterpart and again expressed his condolences to the Italian people. The leaders agreed that Israel would send a team of trauma experts to L'Aquila in the next few days. Netanyahu told Berlusconi he was glad to offer any assistance and noted Israel's experience in rescue and reconstruction operations. About 50 Israelis study in the town, mostly in the medical school. The survivors all returned home by Wednesday, the same day a delegation of Israeli experts headed to L'Aquila to examine damage to bridges, roads and interchanges, in a bid to draw conclusions on how to prevent such damage in the event of such a quake in Israel.