Italian magistrates are to investigate whether companies ignored anti-seismic regulations when restoring public buildings, such as a school in Amatrice that was reduced to rubble in last week’s earthquake.
Everyone suspects such a tragedy was not just a question of destiny, said Giuseppe Saieva, chief prosecutor in the provincial capital of Rieti, north of Rome, who is heading the investigation. Our duty is to verify if there was also responsibility, human culpability.
Italy held a day of national mourning on Saturday for the 290 victims of the earthquake. In Ascoli Piceno, an emotional funeral was held for dozens of local victims. The president, Sergio Mattarella, the prime minister, Matteo Renzi, and other leaders were among the hundreds who filled a sports hall to mourn the dead. The mass was relayed by loudspeakers to many more assembled outside the hall.
A major focus of the judicial inquiry is the Romolo Capranica primary school in Amatrice, the town devastated in Wednesday’s 6.2-magnitude quake where 224 people died out of the total toll of 291. The school was inaugurated in 2012 after being rebuilt by a consortium of builders, Valori Scarl, which won a contract from Amatrice town council for €700,000 (£596,552) to implement anti-earthquake safety standards in the school buildings, according to judicial sources.
Also under the magistrates’ spotlight is the restructuring of the bell tower of the church at Accumoli, a town near Amatrice at the epicentre of the quake. A family of four were killed when the tower collapsed on their home. It had supposedly been restructured to anti-seismic standards with public funds that the Catholic diocese of Rieti obtained following the 1997 earthquake in central Italy.
Homeowners who employed companies that disregarded rules could receive compensation. But Amatrice residents who built extensions or made major home renovations without meeting anti-seismic standards could be prosecuted for causing the deaths of family members.
Police officers are guarding the heap of crumpled masonry which is all that is left of Amatrice town hall to prevent suspects removing municipal records that would show which companies won public contracts.
Seeking to regain popularity after his Democratic party lost local elections to the radical Five Star Movement earlier this year, Renzi is determined to be seen to be dealing effectively with the disaster. Italy’s civil protection chief, Fabrizio Curcio, has won media praise for the rescue efforts in which firefighters, volunteers and Alpine rescue teams have saved the lives of 238 people pulled out of collapsed buildings.
Some 2,500 people are homeless after the quake. Hundreds are living in tents in the mountains with cold weather expected. The population under canvas will have absolute priority for new lodgings because the temperature soon will fall further and it won’t be possible to stay in tents, Curcio said.
The government wants to meet a request by the mayor of Amatrice, Sergio Pirozzi, that the medieval town be rebuilt as it was, rather than creating new satellite towns such as those which sprang up around L’Aquila following the major earthquake there in 2009. As many as 9,000 people made homeless in L’Aquila still live in temporary accommodation.
We won’t leave you on your own, Mattarella told a group of homeless survivors in a tent camp near Accumoli that he visited by helicopter. Don’t worry, we will do everything possible to be close to you. Other survivors were taken by bus from tent camps to the funeral at Ascoli. Together we will rebuild our homes and churches, the bishop of Ascoli Piceno, Giovanni D’Ercole, said in his homily. Together, above all, we will give life again to our communities, starting from our traditions.
To ensure that such stirring words will be honoured, Renzi has ordered Italy’s anti-corruption agency, Anac, to monitor the distribution of reconstruction funds. The authority, headed by Raffaele Cantone, was set up to weed out graft in the contracts for Milan’s Expo 2015.
Italy’s national anti-mafia prosecutor, Franco Roberti, says even that will be insufficient to prevent infiltration by underworld entrepreneurs following the quake. We need to ensure transparent, checked, simple procedures absolutely, above all entrusted to people of proven honesty, he said. The Anac super controller is not enough. We need honest people on the ground.
News Source TheGuardianNews