Billboard apology to mum highlights Rome's burial crisis

Rome (AFP) –


An Italian has posted a message to his late mother on giant billboards around Rome in a bid to shame the authorities, still battling with the coronavirus, into providing burial plots for the city's dead.

"Mum, sorry I've not been able to have you buried yet," reads the message, on nine-by-seven-metre billboards around the city, which like the rest of Italy, is still battling the coronavirus.

Oberdan Zuccaroli put them up both as a tribute to his late mother and to draw attention to the burial crisis.

Rome's Prima Porta cemetery "is no longer doing burials, there are hundreds of coffins waiting", Zuccaroli told the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

"I don't know why, but they stay there for months."

Zuccaroli, who runs a billboards firm and plans to put up another 250 posters, said his mother died on March 8, aged 85, of a heart attack.

But she has still to be buried, and the same applies to his aunt, who died on January 9 of another non-virus related condition.

Il Messaggero daily also reported Wednesday that the Prima Porta cemetery this week stopped accepting coffins for cremations.

AMA, the city hall agency that manages cemeteries in the Italian capital, issued a statement Monday insisting the situation was under control and that efforts were continuing to free up burial spaces.

It had been confronted with a 30-percent increase in deaths, year-on-year, during the October 2020-March 2021 period, it said.

Deaths have surged all over Italy due to the pandemic. According to official statistics, the coronavirus has killed more than 115,500 people.

In the early stages of the crisis, the northern city of Bergamo had to call in the army for help when it could no longer bury or cremate its dead.

Pictures of coffin-laden military trucks taking coffins away to other towns in the middle of the night became one of the symbols of the pandemic in Italy and beyond.