QUAKE: 'Nobody to be forced home', mayor

Tue, 04/28/2009 - 03:38

The mayor of quake-stricken Abruzzo capital L'Aquila said Monday that nobody will be forced to return to their homes once he issues a preliminary list of inhabitable houses later in the day.

''I hope that people will begin to move back because it will mean that we are getting over the trauma of the earthquake,'' Mayor Massimo Cialente said, ''but fear is still very strong''.

The mayor is set to issue a list of 500 houses deemed to be inhabitable Monday, but said that a further 4,500 in the city were also ready to be officially declared safe.

By Sunday the civil protection department had carried out some 15,000 inspections on homes, schools, hospitals and other buildings in the quake-hit region and said around 54.8% were inhabitable.

''The inspections are being carried out at world-record speed,'' said deputy civil protection chief Bernardo De Bernardinis.

''The territory is vast, but we can say that a significant percentage of the buildings are inhabitable, and this gives us comfort,'' he added.

However, many of the 65,000 people who survived the April 6 quake, which killed 296, were said to be reluctant to return home as aftershocks in the region continued.

''Even if they tell me my house is inhabitable, how can I go back in?'' said Walter, a refugee in one of the camps.

''I've heard that people should only be let back in 60 days after the last aftershock, but here there are still quakes every day''.

Another refugee, Mariella, said she too would prefer to remain in the tent camp.

''Absolutely, even if it's very uncomfortable here, it's unthinkable to go back home,'' she said.

But another, Gabriele, said he would go ''immediately, even tonight'' if authorities gave his house the all-clear.

''That way I'd give other people a place in the camp,'' he said.

Almost 36,000 people are currently housed in 178 tent camps around L'Aquila, while a further 29,000 are staying in hotels, mainly along the Abruzzo coast.

The National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology (Ingv) recorded six separate quakes in the region on Monday, with the largest measuring 3.0 on the Richter scale.

The April 6 quake measured 5.8.