After an earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale struck central Italy in April, killing more than 300 and displacing 65,000, more than a thousand survivors are still living in tents.
Mara Warwick is a senior urban environment specialist with the World Bank in China. After witnessing the devastation following that country’s earthquake in Sichuan, she recently visited the quake site in Italy.
Key after the quake is the work of volunteers
I am in the beautiful historic town of L’Aquila, devastated by the earthquake which struck the Ambruzzo region of central Italy at 3:30am on April 6, 2009.
Last Wednesday we visited Onna, a small village close to L’Aquila. As we pass through the police cordon and walk down the main street of Onna with collapsed masonry houses on either side, for a moment I feel like I am in Sichuan again. We can see clothes hanging in closets, their doors ajar on the top floor of a house that no longer has walls. Toys, personal papers and the daily paraphernalia of life is scattered through the masonry rubble. A fleet of crushed cars is neatly parked and fenced on a neighboring field. A foal — still on legs so spindly it must have been born after the quake — curiously noses the 42 bouquets of flowers lined up in memory of the villagers who died in this quake.
Just next to the devastation is an immaculately run tent camp housing more than 250 survivors. Blue tents arranged in neat rows surround the central camp services. A large tent houses the canteen, behind which is a fully-equipped cooking trailer. The lady in charge of the kitchen – a volunteer who has been in the camp since hours after the earthquake – apologizes that the espresso machine is not working, but assures us that another is on its way from Rome for the camp residents. She belongs to a volunteer organization from a neighboring region of Italy, fully trained and prepared by the Italian Civil Protection Agency to respond in just such an emergency. The lady tells us that she recently lost her job because of the economic crisis and she is glad to have the chance to contribute to the recovery of Onna.
The largest tent right in the center of the camp is the temporary church. Next to it is a wooden bell tower built by the fire brigade to house the bells that they retrieved from the collapsed church in the village, so that the bells may continue to ring out over Onna. Nearby, nuns attend infants and toddlers in a tented childcare center which opened 2 days ago. I am moved to see how volunteerism and religion are starting to bring this community together again to heal.
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