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A year on, survivors struggle to deal with aftermath of L'Aquila quake

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-04-06

A year after a massive earthquake struck the Italian city of L'Aquila and its surrounding villages, survivors continue to deal with the aftermath of a disaster that killed over 300 people.

AFP - A year after a violent earthquake devastated the central Italian city of L'Aquila, survivors will mark the sombre anniversary on Tuesday with a candlelight march through streets still strewn with rubble.

Neither Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi nor President Giorgio Napolitano plan to visit the medieval walled city, where 308 inhabitants died and tens of thousands were forced to flee their homes.

L'Aquila, the Abruzzo capital and home to a prestigious university and rich in art and architecture, remains off limits to residents.

Quake survivors complain that the authorities are building new homes at great cost far from the city centre instead of placing priority on rebuilding L'Aquila.

"All the money's been spent on building new communities from scratch," said Alessandro Tettamanti, spokesman of a quake survivors' advocacy group.

"They're dormitory towns and nothing else," he told AFP, noting that the new housing lacks essentials such as transport links, public services and shops.

"This money could have been used differently, especially since these homes cost three times more than planned," said Eugenio Carlomagno, a co-founder of an advocacy group called L'Aquila, A City Centre to Save.

"With that sort of money they could have housed 45,000 people, not only 14,000," he added.

Of some 120,000 people affected by the earthquake in and around L'Aquila, more than 52,000 have yet to return home or move into new housing.
Many are living in hotels along the Adriatic seacoast or in barracks at public expense.
"It will take many years to restore some of the monuments, while for the homes, it's a matter of between eight months and two or three years," Carlomagno said.

"We have to get the water, electricity and gas working again... but nothing has been done, not even a feasibility study," he said.

In a weeks-long series of Sunday protests, displaced residents have pushed wheelbarrows through L'Aquila's off-limits "red zone," loading them with rubble, to protest against the slow pace of reconstruction.

The protests, dubbed the "wheelbarrow revolt," forced the administration to react.

"It's not normal that we have to resort to these kinds of actions to make things happen," Carlomagno said.

Italy's civil protection agency says up to three million cubic metres (100 million cubic feet) of rubble still need to be removed.

Tettamanti slammed L'Aquila Mayor Massimo Cialente as "a lightweight compared with Guido Bertolaso," the head of the civil protection who was given sweeping powers in the aftermath of the disaster.

The government has done a lot, but we still haven't found a definitive solution to the housing problem," Cialente told AFP.

"There's no alternative to rebuilding the city centre, of course, but I'm not really sure we'll have the money to do it," he said.

The issue is a thorny one, and well-known satirist Sabina Guzzanti has decided to address it in a documentary movie based on interviews with displaced residents titled "Draquila - Italy Shaking."

The film is expected to cover a wide-ranging corruption scandal implicating Bertolaso in the awarding of contracts in L'Aquila after the earthquake.

Also accompanying the one-year anniversary of the disaster is an exhibit at the Vatican Museums of religious art and objects retrieved from the earthquake zone.

Titled "Memory and Hope", the exhibit invites visitors to "adopt" objects and help pay for their restoration.

It opened on Wednesday and will run until May 31.

Date created : 2010-04-05