Italy’s premier vows help for thousands in affected region
Italy’s prime minister has pledged to find temporary housing for all those displaced by a series of powerful earthquakes in a central mountainous region, as the nation’s strongest temblor in 36 years pushed those needing assistance to more than 15,000.
Sunday morning’s magnitude 6.6 earthquake caused no deaths or serious injuries, largely because most fragile city centres had already been closed because of previous damage and many homes had been vacated.
But it did complicate quake relief efforts in a zone that was still coping with the aftermath of an August earthquake that killed nearly 300 in the same region, and a pair of powerful aftershocks last week that also claimed no lives.
Civil protection officials said they expect the number of people needing assistance to continue to rise, as it doesn’t count the many people who slept in vehicles or made other arrangements and are likely to seek help.
Temperatures overnight reached near freezing, and officials expressed concern for the many elderly residents of these mountain communities.
“We cannot have tents for some months in the mountains, under the snow,” Premier Matteo Renzi wrote in a message. “There are enough hotels for everyone. But many of our compatriots don’t want to leave their lands, not even for some weeks.”
Many people have been moved to coastal areas, where summer resort hotels are mostly idle, and other zones away from the quake. But there are increasing reports of residents resisting in the belief that if their homes have so far resisted, that they remain the safest place to be.
In the town of Norcia, closest to the epicentre, firefighters were taking people back to their homes early yesterday to retrieve belongings.
They were given helmets as protection, and taken in small groups as they arrived. The ground continued to shake overnight with at least two jolts above magnitude 4.
“We were inside our home and luckily the house handled it,” said Emanuela Spanicciati, a resident of Norcia. “And that allowed us to get out into the streets. There were various injured people, but in the end we were lucky.”
Renzi said the fact that there were no deaths “gives us enormous relief. But the damage to the housing stock, as well as cultural treasures is impressive. These villages are the identity of Italy. We must reconstruct them all, quickly and well”.
DESTROYED: An aerial view of the town of Amatrice; (below) firefighters escort a woman out of a building in Norcia