Thousands left homeless by latest Italian earthquakes
Italians demanded that more money be spent on making buildings resistant to earthquakes, as the country counted the cost yesterday of twin quakes that reduced villages in the Apennines to rubble and left thousands homeless.
Several thousand people were preparing to spend a second night in community halls, sports centres or in their cars after the earthquakes struck within two hours of each other on Wednesday evening.
The second quake was the most powerful, measuring 5.9 in magnitude.
Casualties were far less severe than two months ago, when a 6.0 magnitude earthquake hit a string of villages in central Italy, leaving nearly 300 people dead.
This time, only one person died - a 73-year-old man who had a heart attack, brought on by shock. A few dozen people were treated for injuries.
Matteo Renzi, the prime minister, cancelled engagements and travelled to the town of Camerino in the Marche region to meet some of the 3,000 people who have been left homeless. "Italy is wounded, but will not be bowed," he said.
He pledged that the homeless would not have to live in tents through the winter months. "I'm optimistic that we can rebuild," he said.
Opposition politicians and ordinary Italians said the government needed to spend more money on quake-proofing buildings, rather than on other mooted projects such as building a suspension bridge across the Strait of Messina to connect the mainland to Sicily.
Mr Renzi revived the proposal last month, promising it would create tens of thousands of jobs, but there are fears it would cost billions of pounds and that funds would be siphoned off by mafia organisations.
"The only big project that this country needs is to make public buildings safe [from earthquakes]," said Paolo Ferrero, of the Leftist PRC party.
"Renzi should stop blathering on about the Messina Strait bridge and stump up the funds needed to prevent buildings from collapsing in the future."
He called for €20bn to be made available to quake-proof vulnerable buildings.
Geologists said Italy was such a seismically-active country that the only option was to learn to live with the threat by strengthening buildings.
The two quakes struck barely two hours apart so many people were out of harm's way before the second, more powerful quake hit.
Thousands of people ran outside into a downpour, and many slept in their cars as it was too late for authorities to provide emergency shelter. (© Daily Telegraph London)