Italy has declared a state of emergency in the areas hit by Wednesday’s earthquake. As many as 2,000 aftershocks have been registered by the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) since the main temblor struck at 3:36 am on August 24, causing 290 victims and major damage in the towns of Amatrice, Accumoli, Arquata del Tronto and Pescara del Tronto, in the regions of Lazio and Marche. 238 people have been pulled alive from the collapsed buildings.
Approximately 2,600 people have lost their homes in the quake. While some have moved in with family and friends, the majority are now living in makeshift camps set up by Italy’s Civil Protection Agency. Because the towns most affected are in a mountainous area, it already gets very cold at night. “The population under canvas will have absolute priority for new lodgings because the temperature soon will fall further and it won’t be possible to stay in tents,” Italy’s civil protection chief Fabrizio Curcio has said.
Some of the greatest destruction was in Amatrice, birthplace of spaghetti all’amatriciana, voted one of Italy’s most beautiful ‘borghi’ last year. Amatrice is also known as the “town of 100 churches” (Cento Chiese), which house frescoes, mosaics and sculptures. The 15th-century church of Sant’Agostino has lost half of its façade and its beautiful rose window.
The bell tower of the church of San Francesco in Accumoli, which had supposedly been restructured to anti-seismic standards with public funds, collapsed on a nearby home killing a family of four. It is thought that part of the money awarded to quake-proof the structure in 2014 was used instead to embellish the church.
Italian magistrates are now investigating this and other collapses to find out if construction companies ignored building codes and anti-seismic regulations when restoring buildings such as schools, hospitals and churches. Under investigation for example is the building of the Romolo Capranica primary school in Amatrice, which was inaugurated in 2012. The consortium of builders that won the contract was to implement anti-earthquake safety standards. But the school came crumbling down. The hospital in Amatrice also collapsed during the earthquake. Since the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake, anti-seismic upgrades on the building had been deemed urgent and not deferrable, in an area marked as “zona 1,” i.e. maximum seismic alert.
“We must be in the front row to underline that the reconstruction of those towns is the priority for Italy,” said Italy’s prime minister Matteo Renzi. “Not for Amatrice, but for Italy.” Renzi has ordered Italy’s anti-corruption agency, Anac, to monitor the distribution of reconstruction funds. It is feared that the Mafia may infiltrate reconstruction projects.
The response to earthquake relief efforts has been outstanding. Hundreds of people lined up at their local hospitals to donate blood. So many essential goods and food items were received that the Civil Protection Agency has advised to stop sending any as they are no longer needed. What is needed, the agency said, is money and accommodations for the displaced.
The Italian Postal Service has activated, in partnership with the Italian Red Cross, a dedicated bank account. Those living abroad can make donations to the following bank account:
“Poste Italiane con Croce Rossa Italiana - Sisma del 24 agosto 2016" - IBAN IT38R0760103000000000900050 - BIC/SWIFT BPPIITRRXXX.
You can also visit the British Red Cross website to donate to the Italian Red Cross by credit card or PayPal.
Restaurants in Italy and abroad are taking part in an initiative to donate €2 to the Italian Red Cross for every plate of pasta all’amatriciana they sell in the coming weeks.
Anyone who's in Italy and uses a cell phone serviced by Tim, Vodafone, Tre, Fastweb, Coopvoce, Wind and Infostrada, can send a text message to 45500 to donate 2 euros to Italy's Civil Protection Agency, which will use the money to benefit the areas affected by the earthquake.
Below is a video of Amatrice made by the Lazio region for last year's Expo. It shows the beauty of Amatrice before the earthquake and celebrates the town's signature pasta sauce, amatriciana.