Refugees and Italian Earthquakes

The earthquake struck on 24th August, 2016 at 3:36. It scored magnitude 6.2, with an epicentre close to Accumoli, with a depth of only 4km. 298 people were killed. There have been at least 2500 aftershocks, some of which, along with the initial quake, have been felt throughout most of Italy.

The Apennines are a very seismically active area, with many small faultlines. The faults involved recently in quakes have been SW-dipping faults.

Tourism to the rural area swelled the number of people around the area who could be affected by the earthquake. As such, 3 Brits and 11 Romanian people were killed by the earthquake.

At least 365 people had to be hospitalised, though many others had more minor injuries. 238 people were pulled out of rubble. A town near the epicentre, Amatrice, according to its mayor “is not here anymore”. Many cultural heritage sites have been lost- to the extent that structural tests were done on the Coliseum, on the other side of the country, 100km away. Dozens of people were killed in Rome, despite the distance from the epicentre.

Approximately 2,100 people went to emergency camps. 4,400 were involved in search and rescue with 70 teams with rescue dogs.

Italy has well developed emergency services which mobilised 6,600 rescue people overall. Rescue workers asked locals to turn off wifi passwords to help teams (and those needing assistance!) to communicate more easily.

A man trying to loot an empty home was arrested at one point.

A state funeral was held with coffins for 38 victims from Amatrice, including 2 children. The funeral was meant to be held in Reiti, 35 miles away, but local people protested, saying it had to be held locally, putting additional immediate strain onto builders and organisers, who were already struggling with organising basic needs. Another was held in the Marche region, nearby.

The Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, has pledged 50 million euros in funds for rebuilding.

Refugees

In Pescara del Tronto, five asylum seekers helped out. Amadou Jallow from Gambia was one of them, and he said they had “to give back to Italian people for the good things that they have done for us”.

35 refugees and asylum seekers in Ascoli Peceno were shocked by the earthquake but started clearing rubble away quickly. A group of 70 refugees pooled their 2 euros a day allowance and made a donation of nearly 200 euros to earthquake victims- the footage they saw reminded them of the places they had fled from.

Italy generally has a very xenophobic attitude towards those of Muslim heritage- to the extent that in some schools refugee children are made to use different bathrooms to the others, due to “hygiene concerns” despite the children being perfectly healthy. Some of the intolerance is understandable:

  •  Since 2014, 400,000 refugees have arrived in Italy
  • Not all of them have enough housing
  • Not all can access schooling
  • Some politicians said the funding spent on refugees should have been spent on helping refugee victims instead.
  • Some victims think it better to be living in a migrant centre than the earthquake victim camps.
  • The emotional strain of the earthquake is going to put people on edge about any issues they encounter.

Any help the refugees gave was entirely from them understanding how stressful the situation was and genuinely wanting to help people in need; no one was trusting them enough to think they’d do anything to help.

Most don’t care about the prejudices- they’re grateful to live somewhere safe at last, and want to give back to their new communities. Some other examples of refugee community work:

  • Syrian teenagers in Seattle volunteering to help the homeless with basic necessities
  • A Syrian refugee setting up meal stations to give homeless people food in Berlin
  • Another Syrian refugee mobilising the refugee community to help in flooding in the British town they are living in.

Earthquake Proofing Controversy

Rieti was meant to have rebuilt many of its buildings after an earthquake in 1974 to improve earthquake resistance; however, an entire family was killed that sheltered within a church during the movement. A primary school in Amatrice was levelled- after 700,000 euros were spent in 2013 on “renovating” it; tests of the school’s permits shows that anti-seismic measures were faked, possibly by the mafia.

The Amatrice bell tower had been recently restored before the quake, but fell, and crushed a family of four.

 

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