Italy's earthquake shakes even the dead

August 26, 2016 12:50 PM EDT

Coffins covered by debris are seen in a cemetery following an earthquake at Sant' Angelo near Amatrice, central Italy, August 26, 2016. REUTERS/Max Rossi

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SANT'ANGELO, Italy (Reuters) - The earthquake that brought disaster to a cluster of mountain communities in central Italy this week did not even spare the dead.

The small cemetery outside the hamlet of Sant'Angelo, sitting above the devastated town of Amatrice, has been damaged by the violent tremors that have battered the area since Wednesday.

Past the 600-year-old oak tree that guards the entrance to the cemetery, half the family tombs have lost their marble surfaces. One has been completely destroyed.

Some of the inlaid wooden coffins still sit in their niches, others lay bare above mounds of rubble.

With the Appenine mountains in the background, a statue of the Virgin Mary stands covered in dust in a chapel. The wall behind her has completely caved in.

Giancarla, 50, lives in Rome but comes here in the summer with her family and her sister Vittoria.

"There are at most 150 people here in the summer, and only a few families in winter," she says. "But the people who come here are very attached to this town. We are all friends, we all know each other."

The old community of Sant'Angelo once depended on farming, but now most of its homes are empty and are used during the holidays by the younger generations of families that have lived in the area for hundreds of years.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer, writing by Giulia Segreti; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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