Italy’s recent earthquake

13 September 2016

The recent earthquake in Italy is described by a survivor as Dantesque, according to a letter in the New York Times. About 290 people died in the quake which measured 6.2 on the Richter scale.

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The writer, chairperson of the Italic Institute of America continues by saying the earthquake turned parts of ‘central Italy into earthly infernos, with entire towns nearly disappearing from view’. He then calls on experts and man’s perseverance to overcome this event.

Also on call is the architect Renzo Piano, who was asked by the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to lead the rebuilding of towns in the central area of their country. Piano has experience working with UNESCO on disaster recovery and prevention.

 Volunteers of the Italian Red Cross committed during the earthquake emergency in Amatrice on August 26, 2016 in Amatrice, Italy. Photo: Gianluca Fortunato

Volunteers of the Italian Red Cross committed during the earthquake emergency in Amatrice on August 26, 2016 in Amatrice, Italy. Photo: Gianluca Fortunato

Piano and Renzi met shortly after the tragedy to discuss strategies to help the more than 3 000 homeless and to rebuild the towns in a way that will mitigate future seismic activity. Piano, aware of the urgency of action, told reporters that it is necessary to include precautions against an earthquake in a building, in the same way that brakes are built into a care. Apart from anti-seismic regulations, it is also important to look at the protection of the area’s architectural heritage.

The Italian government’s recovery plan consists of different phase: in the coming six months the government will move the homeless from the 58 tent camps they are now in, to more ‘chalet-type’ huts of wood, closer to their damaged or destroyed homes. As soon as this is done, the rebuilding of the towns will start.

Putting in place Piano’s complete plan, however, will take nearly 50 years. “We are speaking about the ridge of the Apennines, the backbone of Italy from north to south, an operation projected over 50 years and two generations,” he said. “We are talking about millions of buildings, it is not impossible if you work through generations.”

The 78-year-old architect was appointed an Italian senator for life in 2013.

In his letter in the New York Times the reader writes that even harder work awaits when communities are rebuilt and buildings fitted with earthquake-proof technology. He ends his letter by quoting Renzi: “Now we must dry our tears, and then the credibility and honor of us all will be in granting a true reconstruction that allows residents to live and restart.”

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