Monday, April 20, 2009

Recovery begins in L'Aquila after its Earthquake

The historical area of medieval L'Aquila, devastated by an earthquake earlier this month, will be rebuilt as quickly as possible, Abruzzo region President Gianni Chiodi said last week.

Chiodi told a television news show that by October or latest by November, comfortable lodgings will be found for the homeless who are currently housed in tent camps.

The civil protection department has done an "amazing job" in handling the first phase of the emergency, said Chiodi, stressing that the second phase will involve finding "more comfortable" lodgings for those camped out in tents or hotels on the Abruzzo coast.

"The third phase will be reconstruction of L'Aquila's historic centre and planning a series of initiatives for the city's future, including its role as a university centre, new industrial activities and revitalising businesses," he said. "There was widespread recognition for the way the first phase (of the emergency) was handled. We've got to be just as good with the second and third phases."

A 100-strong culture ministry team yesterday began a full inventory of churches, historic buildings and their contents in the Italian region of Abruzzo, after rescue workers called off their search for survivors of the devastating earthquake.

A culture ministry official said that at least 500 historic churches had been damaged or razed to the ground. "We are now shifting paintings, confessional booths and other objects from damaged churches to a depositary to start restoration work," said Anna Maria Reggiani, regional director for the ministry.

Augusto Cicciotti, an architect working with the ministry team amid the collapsed buildings in L'Aquila, said restoration costs could reach euros 100 million. Culture minister Sandro Bondi said restoration work would be "gigantic".

Damaged churches in L'Aquila include Sant'Agostino, the dome of which collapsed onto a government office housing the city's historical archive. The removal of rare documents, including the 13th century charter granting city status to L'Aquila, began yesterday.

Cicciotti cited the recovery of the 700 year old bones of Pope Celestine V from the damaged church of Santa Maria di Collemaggio as hugely important, while Reggiani said she hoped the city's churches could be restored as they were.

Meanwhile, a team from the culture ministry was set to recover medieval manuscripts from the rubble of L'Aquila's state archives following Monday's earthquake.

The prefecture that housed the archives was completely flattened by the cupola of the next door 18th-century Baroque church of St Augustine in the disaster.

The culture ministry said the operation will involve recovering around four kilometres of shelves of manuscripts, books and rare documents, which will be taken to the state archives in the Abruzzo town of Sulmona for safe-keeping.