Wailing mothers have mourned for their children at the first burials of the 338 people killed when Chechen rebels seized a Russian school, while officials express remorse over the carnage. The shock and grief of the residents of Beslan was in clear evidence on Sunday at the funeral of Alina Khubechova, who celebrated her 11th birthday the day before the rebels -- some with bombs strapped to them -- took more than 1,000 hostages at the school. Her parents grasped a picture of the pretty brown-haired girl with white ribbons in her hair as she was buried in a soccer-field sized patch of wasteland cleared for graves. "Beslan is such a small town," said one mourner, who gave her name only as Zoya. "What did we do to deserve all this?" At other funerals in the town in North Ossetia, bordering Chechnya, a distraught mother had to be helped to her feet by men, a trumpeter played with tears streaming down his face and mourners carrying flowers hugged each other for comfort. Ambulances that on Friday were rushing the wounded to hospital were put on standby at the funerals to help relatives overcome with grief. Relatives of those buried left front doors and windows open as part of a local custom, publishes Reuters. According to the Globe, Funeral processions snaked through this grief-racked town as relatives buried victims of the school siege in southern Russia in rows of freshly dug graves Sunday. Meanwhile, frantic parents searched for missing children two days after the crisis erupted into violence that left more than 350 people dead. Wails of mourning women echoed from courtyards where families made ritual meals and from a football-field-sized plot of land next to the cemetery in this small city in the North Ossetia region, where men dug graves as surveyors across the road marked out new plots with wooden stakes and string. North Ossetia's health minister Alexander Soplevenko said at least 340 people were dead, while his deputy Taimuraz Revazov said 324 were confirmed dead. The Interfax news agency quoted regional government spokesman Lev Dzugayev as saying the toll stood at 338, but he later said in televised comments that the number was 335. The regional health ministry said 180 people were missing after the three-day hostage crisis, which began when armed attackers raided School No. 1 on the first day of classes, seizing students, teachers and parents who brought their children to opening-day ceremonies. Russian media speculated that some of the missing could be among the wounded who were taken to various hospitals in North Ossetia, unconscious or too deep in shock — or just too young — to identify themselves. Also, many of the dead still have not been identified — a process that could take a long time, with some bodies charred beyond recognition. The health ministry said 207 of the dead had been identified.
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