Tue, Jul 07, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Quake survivors not happy to be hosting G8 summit

AFP , L’AQUILA, ITALY

Oxfam activists, wearing masks of the G8 heads of state, pose as ancient Romans at the Circo Massimo in Rome yesterday. The activists are masked, from left to right, as Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, US President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Earthquake survivors in L’Aquila are none too pleased about playing host to this year’s G8 summit as they struggle to rebuild their lives.

“This G8 summit is a huge disturbance for our city, which is divided between those who think it may be a chance for revival and others who are convinced that we’ll be forgotten as soon as the meeting is over,” activist Fabrizio Bianchi said.

“We all want to take advantage of the summit to voice our opposition to the government’s decisions. We are not a political movement, we’re not on the left, we just don’t approve of what the government has done so far,” Bianchi said.

Parliament last month passed a reconstruction spending bill of 8 billion euros (US$11 billion) through 2032, beginning with 1.15 billion euros this year — an amount considered paltry next to the needs of the disaster zone.

Bianchi belongs to a group of volunteers calling themselves the 3+32 — after the time of night that the earthquake struck on April 6, claiming 299 lives.

They have set up a tent in L’Aquila’s city center, still designated a declared “red zone,” to air their grievances.

The anger is palpable among the quake victims, who complain of unkept promises.

“What we don’t understand is why with all the preparations for the G8 summit they haven’t started rebuilding L’Aquila as well,” said Piero De Santis, a community organizer.

“Our earthquake has only given the government an advertising platform,” De Santis said ahead of the summit beginning tomorrow.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi shifted the G8 venue to the earthquake zone from the Sardinian island of La Maddalena, where summiteers were to have held talks aboard a luxury cruise liner.

Making the surprise announcement some three weeks after the earthquake, Berlusconi said the move would “show solidarity” with the victims of the disaster, which left some 70,000 people homeless.

Staging the meeting at La Maddalena would have cost some 220 million euros, money that could be better spent on rebuilding the L’Aquila region, he said.

Humble surroundings await the leaders of the world’s wealthiest countries, joined by another 30 counterparts from emerging nations, at a military academy in Coppito, a suburb of L’Aquila, where they will discuss the global financial crisis.

The venue, a sprawl of reinforced concrete buildings, is a training school for Italy’s militarized revenue police, the Guardia di Finanza.

The G8 delegations — plus those of 14 emerging nations and several international organizations — will be billeted in the academy’s barracks for married cadets.

The April quake, measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale, has been followed by thousands of aftershocks, including a 4.1 tremor as recently as Friday some 8km from the center of L’Aquila.

There were no casualties or apparent damage, but it caused a wave of panic among residents.

The daily Corriere della Sera said the Coppito barracks were shaken by the tremor, which triggered alarms on cars in the area. Authorities say the venue could stand up to any size tremor.

Antonio Sforna, a 23-year-old student, is sheltering in a tent city near L’Aquila’s Collemaggio basilica, a cultural icon that suffered severe damage in the quake.

“We’ve got the church tent, the management tent, the shop where you can buy shirts or deodorant, the food tent ... I’m a bit sick of the tents after three months,” Sforna said.

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