Pope mulls Italy quake visit as survivors dig in
August 28 2016 06:03 PM
Italy
People carry a bell recovered by firefighters from a damaged church in the village of Rio, some 10 kms from the central Italian village of Amatrice, on Sunday.

AFP/Amatrice, Italy

Pope Francis said on Sunday he wanted to visit some of the Italian villages devastated by this week's earthquake, as survivors and rescue workers dug in for the long haul with colder weather approaching.
Francis said the Catholic Church shared the "suffering" of the victims of the quake that claimed nearly 300 lives and pledged: "As soon as possible, I hope to come and see you."
The Argentine pontiff told thousands of worshippers gathered for the Angelus prayer in Rome's Saint Peter's square he had a "spiritual closeness" to residents of the mountain villages in a remote area straddling the Umbria, Marche and Lazio regions.
Meanwhile, as hope faded of finding anyone else alive and the search for bodies nearly complete, rescue workers and survivors turned their attention to a bleak future as temperatures start to fall.
"We're getting ready for winter. Given what's happened in other quakes, we're going to spend winter here," said Emidio Chiappini from the devastated village of Sant'Angelo.
The government has pledged to support immediate reconstruction and Chiappini said he hoped authorities would send pre-fabricated housing to stave off the frost that will soon descend on the mountainous region.
The Italian government has freed up around €60mn ($67mn) in immediate aid, added to which will be approximately €10mn in donations.
"Basically, we know we're going to be here for three or four months. That's not official, but we have got the equipment for that," said a volunteer for the civil protection agency who gave his name as Nicola.
According to Italian media, the government is poised to appoint a special commissioner to oversee the huge reconstruction operation, which is being hampered by aftershocks -- more than 1,800 since the earthquake struck on Wednesday.
Shoddy reconstruction 
With the immediate grief fading, the focus was switching to how such damage could have been wrought in an area so close (50 kilometres) to L'Aquila, which was hit by a 2009 earthquake in which more than 300 people perished.
Prosecutor Giuseppe Saieva has indicated that property owners who commissioned suspected sub-standard work could be held responsible for contributing to the quake's deadly impact.
"If the buildings had been constructed as they are in Japan they wouldn't have collapsed," he told La Repubblica daily.
"If it emerges that individuals cut corners, they will be pursued and those that have made mistakes will pay a price," the prosecutor said.
Experts were expected to test school buildings on Monday to see if they are safe for children to return to lessons.
"The lessons from Aquila in 2009 have not been learned," fumed Adriana Cavaglia, a member of the national council of geologists as she surveyed the ruins in Sant'Angelo.
Some of the survivors in the camps of blue tents accommodating the homeless said that on top of everything else, they had to battle against boredom.
"Basically, things are OK. It's just that we are doing nothing all day here. I'm used to working nearly 18 hours a day and now, there's nothing to do," said one survivor who gave his name as Massimo.
Another survivor, Atemio Scienzo, warned that endemic corruption in Italy could stymie reconstruction efforts.
"After the emergency comes the period of reconstruction and that's the important bit. It has to happen quickly and the funds have to arrive," said the craftsman.
"If half of it gets lost en route, as often happens, there will be a problem."



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