President Napolitano among the mourners, Bocelli performs
Viareggio, July 7 - A solemn funeral was held Tuesday for the victims of last week's gas train explosion here in this Tuscan town as Italy marked a day of mourning with flags flying at half mast. A total of 22 people were killed in the blast, caused when a train carrying liquid gas derailed and exploded, and some 12 remain in critical condition.
Representing the state were President Giorgio Napolitano, Senate Speaker Renato Schifani and House Speaker Gianfranco Fini. The president later visited some of the injured in hospital and said ''we need to first shed full light on what exactly happened before determining who may have been responsible''.
''We also need to know what happened to know how safety regulations can be improved,'' he added. Over 30,000 people filed past the 15 coffins which were on view Monday at a closed sports area and thousands lined the streets in silence as the coffins were brought from the arena to a nearby soccer stadium where between 25 to 30,000 people participated in the funeral service. The other seven victims were Moroccan nationals whose bodies have already been flown home for burial. During the service, the archbishop of Lucca, Msgr. Italo Castellani, read out a message from Pope Benedict XVI.
In his message the pope said he shared the city's grief and ''prayed deeply for those who died so tragically and for the recovery of those left injured''. Also on hand was the chairman of the Islamic Federation of Tuscany, Imam Wahid el Fihri, who spoke ''in the name of a single God'' and expressed his ''embrace of support and brotherhood''. Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli performed at the end of the ceremony, singing 'Panis Angelicus' by Cesar Frank and Mozart's 'Ave Verum Corpus'. Because of the heat and huge crowd 19 people needed medical attention for heat stroke and panic attacks.
Also attending the funeral were Viareggio Mayor Luca Lunardi, Tuscany Region President Claudio Martini and national soccer coach Marcello Lippi, a Viareggio native and resident. Last week the scene of the June 29 explosion was declared a national disaster area until the end of the year.