Last week the Infrastructure and Transport Minister, Altero Matteoli, announced that work on the Messina Bridge will begin on December 23rd this year and finish in 2016. The Bridge Project has always been contentious and is particularly so in the aftermath of the Messina Disaster of the night of 1-2 October.
Many people in Sicily believe that the money would be better spent on improving the infrastructure, in particular with regard to safety and they point to the Messina mudslides as proof of their case. Others fear the environmental consequences whilst still others deem the bridge unnecessary: “Anyone who wants to get to the mainland quickly flies”, said a businessman whose opinion I recently sought. “Pro-bridgers” , on the other hand, feel that the project will create jobs, encourage tourism and generally enable the island’s economy to function more efficiently. To the safety argument, Minister Matteoli replies that the money for the bridge, which largely comes from EU funding and Project Financing, is not available for other uses.
Meanwhile, what of the stricken Messina hamlets of Giampilieri Superiore and Scaletta Zanclea? On that dreadful night of 1 – 2 October 250 mm - over 9 inches - of rain fell upon them in a matter of hours, sweeping away homes and burying their inhabitants under mud and debris. A friend of mine who passed through Giampilieri a week ago was visibly shaken by the devastation he witnessed. It is thought that all the bodies have now been recovered by the teams who have worked day and night in horrific conditions and Saturday saw the heartbreaking funeral of two brothers aged 2 and 6, whose bodies were found last Tuesday.
Berlusconi has promised new homes on the L’Aquila Model - fully equipped new houses on a different site nearby - an inquiry has been opened which will apportion blame if, indeed, blame there be, but one worrying question persists: could it be that, under the remaining debris, so close to that famous port city, there lie buried a number of unregistered, illegal immigrants?
Further reading: You may like to read about the “Hero of Giampilieri” here.