16 thoughts on “Earthquake, corruption, kill in Italy

  1. Quake: Fears of Mafia infiltration

    ‘River of money’ for rebuilding city could be mafioso target

    (ANSA) – L’Aquila, April 14 – Funds arriving in the Abruzzo capital L’Aquila to help reconstruct the city after the devastating April 6 earthquake could become a target for the Mafia, L’Aquila public prosecutor Alfredo Rossini warned Tuesday.

    ”We assume that since there is a Mafia presence in Abruzzo, as has been demonstrated in the past, it’s logical to imagine that the mafiosi will not turn a blind eye to the river of money that is set to arrive,” Rossini said. ”For that reason we’ll be on very high alert to check who will come (to rebuild the city), and I don’t mean just that they have antimafia certification,” he said, adding that he had discussed the risk with National Antimafia prosecutor Pietro Grasso. Grasso said Monday that lessons must be learned from the 1980 earthquake in Irpinia, near Naples, which left almost 3,000 people dead and 300,000 homeless. Much of the reconstruction funds ended up in the hands of the local Camorra Mafia. ”Certainly, Abruzzo is not Campania, where organised crime is strongly rooted,” Grasso said. ”But experience shows it is important to make post-quake tenders more transparent and to pay attention to how the funds are managed, as well as to which companies are entrusted with works through private negotiations”. However, Abruzzo Governor Gianni Chiodi played down the risk of mobsters getting a share of the reconstruction money.

    ”This is not a concrete concern. It’s a fear, an anxiety that arises from what has sometimes happened before in our country,” Chiodi said. ”But times have changed: this is Abruzzo and, above all, there is not even the hint of evidence to say such things”. According to a joint report from L’Aquila’s prosecutor’s office and the National Antimafia Department, there are signs that the Mafia had begun to infiltrate the region before the earthquake. The report said the Camorra is an increasing presence in drugs trafficking in the region, while there is growing evidence that Sicily’s Cosa Nostra is setting up companies in the waste disposal sector that could recycle dirty money as well as win public contracts.


    Rossini said L’Aquila’s San Salvatore hospital will meanwhile be ”one of the principal points” of an inquiry over construction safety in the wake of earthquake. The hospital, which opened in 2000 and should have been quake-proof, had to be evacuated after its walls cracked. Building work on the hospital began in 1972, and the principal problems occurred mainly in older parts of the hospital. Rossini said he had acquired the results of a 2000 parliamentary report on unfinished hospitals that slammed San Salvatore in order to ”verify possible criminal responsibility” for the collapse. The report criticised ”irrationality and obsolescence” in the construction plans as well as ”poor quality of the materials used”. ”Our priority will be those large, new buildings that nevertheless collapsed,” Rossini said, promising ”the mother of all inquiries”. L’Aquila Mayor Massimo Cialente, also a hospital doctor, said it was clear that ”extremely serious mistakes” had been made during the building of the hospital. ”The hospital would not have collapsed if it had been built as it should have been,” he said. Chiodi said the region would lodge a civil suit in the event that anyone was found responsible for failing to meet construction safety norms.


    Out of some 1,500 building inspections made so far in L’Aquila, around 53% are inhabitable, civil protection sources said on Tuesday.

    Around 20% need minor repairs to be stable, while 20% are totally uninhabitable and the rest partially so, sources said.

    Inspectors are first checking buildings which appear to be stable while the city centre and neighboring towns, where the damage from the April 6 earthquake is most evident, have been cordoned off and will be inspected later.

    Around 46,000 people are currently homeless as a result of the quake, with 25,000 living in tent camps and a further 21,000 being housed in hotels on the Abruzzo coast.

    Firemen have meanwhile been at work since the weekend to retrieve said clothes, medicines, ID cards and documents from homes which are too risky for owners to enter.

    ”People fled at night, wearing just what they had on in bed,” said rescue worker Francesco Santucci. ”They’re very undemanding about what they ask us to retrieve… if we can though we’re obviously happy to pick up important objects, especially if they’ve got a sentimental value,” he said. Chiodi said Tuesday that following the rescue phase of the emergency, the next phase will involve finding ”more comfortable” lodgings for those camped out in tents or hotels who will not be able to return to their homes, which he pledged to do by October or latest by November. ”The third phase will be reconstruction of L’Aquila’s historic centre and planning a series of initiatives for the city’s future, including its role as a university centre, new industrial activities and revitalising businesses,” he said.

    Aftershocks in the region continued Tuesday, more than a week after the quake that left 294 dead and 1,500 injured, although the National Geophysics and Vulcanology Institute said the epicentres of the quakes have been moving away from L’Aquila, northeast to the Gran Sasso mountain.

    On Monday an aftershock registering 4.9 on the Richter scale hit the region at 23:14 (21:14 GMT) – one of the strongest since the main quake, which measured 5.8 on the scale.

  2. Quake: Murder charges possible

    Prosecutors gather evidence for ‘mother of inquiries’

    (ANSA) – L’Aquila, April 17 – Murder charges may be pressed as part of an inquiry into construction safety in the wake of the April 6 earthquake, L’Aquila Public Prosecutor Alfredo Rossini said Friday.

    Rossini earlier this week promised the ”mother of all inquiries” after many modern, supposedly quake-proof buildings collapsed in the devastating earthquake that killed 294 people.

    ”We have to see if anyone involved in the chain of building the houses that collapsed contributed to the deaths caused… by the earthquake,” he said Friday.

    ”If someone made a mistake, then the crime is without intent, but if someone behaved like a thief and (deliberately) didn’t put iron in the pillars, then it becomes a crime with intent,” he said.

    Rossini said prosecutors had seized 13 buildings as part of the inquiry, although ”there will be others”, and that he had drawn up a list of around 20 people to be questioned.

    ”The questioning will begin once we have got all the documents useful for reconstructing the ‘history’ of these buildings and when results from surveys of the seized properties are available,” he said.

    Prosecutors were also collecting footage from local television stations as well as from closed circuit cameras outside banks and other city buildings to assess how buildings collapsed.

    Survivors of the quake meanwhile continued to file complaints, with many describing the damage to their properties as ”absolutely inexplicable”.

    Around 80 students who lived in the Student Lodgings that was completely destroyed in the quake, killing seven under the rubble, formed a committee to file a joint complaint.

    ”I decided to join to have justice. There were lots of things wrong with the building but they were taken lightly,” said student Marilena Faragasso, who scrambled to safety from the lodgings on April 6.

    In another complaint, a survivor said he had bought his house three months prior to the quake.

    ”They assured me it was quake-proof, and instead it collapsed. That was my life’s savings,” he said.

    Earlier this week Rossini said the city’s San Salvatore hospital would be ”one of the main points” of the inquiry.

    The hospital, which opened in 2000 and should have been quake-proof, had to be evacuated after its walls cracked.


    Health Undersecretary Ferruccio Fazio on Friday meanwhile ruled out a risk of epidemics in L’Aquila and surrounding towns, saying the health situation was under control. Speaking during a visit to L’Aquila, Fazio said officials were ”monitoring the situation very carefully for possible epidemics or infections”. Referring to conditions in the 5,285 tents set up after the April 6 quake, Fazio said ”considering the emergency, the situation couldn’t be any better than it is”. According to the civil protection department, the number of people left homeless stands at 64,752 after the quake affected 49 towns and villages: 37 in the province of L’Aquila, five in the province of Teramo and seven in the Adriatic coast province of Pescara.

    Survivors have been given temporary lodgings in 369 hotels, mainly along the Abruzzo region’s Adriatic coast, in 1106 private homes and in 114 tent camps, the department said.

    Meanwhile, cabinet Undersecretary Paolo Bonaiuti clarified Friday that the government will cover costs of restoring or rebuilding houses in the stricken areas, while it will contribute 33% of costs for people who decide to rebuild houses elsewhere.


    The Spanish government on Friday responded to an appeal to ‘adopt’ an artistic monument damaged by the quake, saying it would fund the repair of L’Aquila’s 16th-century Spanish castle. Foreign ministry sources said a group of Spanish experts will assess the damage at the castle, built by the army of Charles V (1500-1558) and considered one of the most beautiful built in Renaissance Italy. On Thursday, Premier Silvio Berlusconi said he would ask allies to fund repairs for 38 major monuments. The premier said the government would step in to fund repairs for monuments that ”foreign friends” could not adopt. Practically all of L’Aquila’s artistic heritage suffered serious damage in Monday’s earthquake.

  3. Apr 17, 3:28 PM EDT

    Italy outraged by crumbling of hospital in quake

    Associated Press Writers

    L’AQUILA, Italy (AP) — The hospital of San Salvatore should have been a sanctuary for the injured when this central Italian city and its surroundings were struck by an earthquake.

    It was anything but.

    Like many buildings in the area, its walls cracked and crumbled after the April 6 pre-dawn temblor, forcing the evacuation of the 250-bed hospital just as it was struggling to treat 1,500 more injured. Nobody inside the hospital was killed or injured in the quake.

    Now, the failure of San Salvatore has turned into a source of public outrage and debate, with many people asking how the structure, whose construction began in the early 1970s, could have crumbled in the 6.3-magnitude quake. It also the focus of an investigation, with experts saying inferior building standards for an earthquake-prone area factored into the tragedy.

    “Not only should a hospital not be damaged by an earthquake, but it should also keep working,” said engineer Alessandro Martelli, who heads a six-member team of experts monitoring damaged buildings around L’Aquila. “Such a building would have been a disgrace even if it was built in the 1700s.”

    Investigators have collected samples from the hospital, and chief prosecutor Alfredo Rossini said the hospital is central to what he has pledged would be “the mother of all investigations” – both because it is a structure of great public importance and because it was one of the city’s newer buildings and should have been built to resist a quake of this magnitude.

    He said this week he expected the probe to lead to the arrests of anyone found responsible for substandard construction.

    Officials say some 10,000 to 15,000 buildings were either damaged or destroyed in the 49 cities, towns and villages around L’Aquila, a picturesque city of 70,000. Among structures destroyed were centuries-old churches, bell towers and buildings – but also modern structures, including a university dormitory that pancaked, killing seven students.

    Shoddy construction has been a problem in Italy, even in places not struck by earthquakes. In November, for example, a section of a ceiling collapsed at a high school near Turin, killing one student and injuring 20 others.

    Martelli said some pillars holding up the walls of the hospital – which was started in 1974 but took nearly 30 years to finish due to delays and bureaucracy – simply “exploded.”

    “The hypothesis is that the concrete did not resist the quake’s compression and the rods broke apart because they were not sufficiently fixed. The problem is simply bad construction,” Martelli said.

    Now, in place of a 250-bed hospital, tents have been set up outside the damaged structure for emergency cases. Other cases are sent to other regional hospitals, with only 40 patients too weak or old to move elsewhere still being treated at the field hospital.

    The tent complex looks like an army hospital in a war zone. The internal medicine ward is a long tent flanked by cots on each side where nurses tread over improvised tarp flooring as they tend to elderly patients, some with breathing tubes in their noses.

    Prosecutors are still working to determine what exactly went wrong at San Salvatore that prevented the hospital from fulfilling its mission as a place of healing for the injured and sick.

    Rossini, the prosecutor, said he would look into “the whole construction chain of the collapsed buildings, from when the contracts were drawn, to who built them, to the designers and to who carried out the tests.”

    Antonio Piersanti, director of the seismology department at the Rome-based National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology, said the massive destruction inflicted by the quake “is not normal.”

    “A house that is built properly can resist such an earthquake,” Piersanti said.

    The Civil Protection office’s official toll of victims rose on Friday to 295, after the death of a man who had been seriously injured in the quake. The exact date of the death was not immediately available.

    Cracks zigzag through the dull yellow brick exterior of the hospital, a complex of several wings set on the edge of L’Aquila. That belies the extensive destruction inside, where large chunks of concrete have broken off pillars holding up the structure, metal ceiling slabs hang from single cords, blocking corridors and one entire stairwell is nothing but a pile of rubble.

    One of the well-preserved areas is a modern chapel in a central courtyard built in the 1990s where just a few cracks run through walls decorated with small statuettes of Jesus bearing the cross. Otherwise, there is no rubble or other visible destruction, and the building is being used as a storehouse for blankets and other supplies.

    Roberto Marzetti, general director of L’Aquila’s state health authority, said the situation is not as bad as it seems. He believes parts of the hospital can start working again within months. He also considers it a success that the hospital managed to treat patients for six hours following the quake that struck at 3:32 a.m that day. It wasn’t evacuated until 10 a.m.

    He estimates that only a third of the hospital – an area including the emergency room – is damaged beyond repair. “The rest can be recovered,” he said, adding that he expects the least-damaged sections to reopen in about two months, and others in about six months.

    Many of the hospital staff are furious at how the building cracked and have a bleak view of the hospital ever returning to what it was.

    Sabrina Cicogna, a cardiologist who treated patients after the quake, was angry over what she sad was its poor construction and said she is terrified that its rebuilding will be plagued by shortcuts and corruption.

    “I have the great fear that strange things will happen even with the reconstruction of the city,” Cicogna said.


    Gera reported from L’Aquila and Falconi from Rome.

  4. Quake: Prehistoric elephant OK
    Standing skeleton intact despite structural damage to museum
    (ANSA) – Rome, April 20 – Rescue workers in quake-hit L’Aquila on Monday were celebrating after finding the National Museum of Abruzzo’s famous prehistoric elephant skeleton intact.

    The beautifully preserved skeleton of the Southern Elephant (Archidiskodon meridionalis), 4.5 meters high and nearly 7 meters long, was discovered near L’Aquila in 1954.

    Workers have already removed 90% of works from the museum housed in the city’s 16th-century Spanish Castle, which suffered structural damage in the April 6 quake that killed almost 300 and left thousands homeless.

    One of the most important collections of wood sculptures in Italy as well as the museum’s modern art collection were among works already taken to safety.

    The museum is to be evacuated completely before work can begin on repairing damage, which includes the collapse of the building’s third floor.

    The Spanish government on Friday responded to an appeal to ‘adopt’ an artistic monument damaged in the quake by offering to fund the repair of the castle. Foreign ministry sources said a group of Spanish experts will assess the damage at the castle, built by the army of Charles V (1500-1558) and considered one of the most beautiful built in Renaissance Italy.

    The castle was designed by Spanish military architect Pirro Aloisio Escriva’.

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