News - September 9, 2016

Meanwhile in... Italy

Carina Nieuwenweg

On Wednesday 24 August the mountainous area of central Italy was struck by an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.2 on the Richter scale, killing almost 300 people and leaving 2000 people homeless.

Comment by Marco Dompé, Ph.D student at Physical chemistry and soft matter

‘The earthquake is a real disaster. People could feel the earth trembling in the middle of the night: one big quake followed by more, smaller tremors. In the morning news it turned out that a lot of people where dead or missing and that they were trying to rescue people. But hour after hour the number of dead increased. The mayor of the town which was affected the most, Amatrice, stated at a certain point that half of the town just does not exist anymore.

Soon after that, people started to question if the buildings were earthquake-proof enough. After the disastrous earthquake of L'Aquila in 2009 a lot of money was allocated to improving buildings. But people are annoyed to learn that some buildings were not made earthquake-safe. For example, an old church which should have been improved but which was not: it collapsed and the house below it was destroyed, killing a family with little children. The news is filled with scandals like this.

I can imagine that it is difficult to improve historic buildings. Reconstructing normal houses is one thing but reinforcing old buildings is another. If you want to make them safe you should reshape and sometimes rebuild them since some of them were built centuries ago. But then they lose some of their cultural value. It is a tradeoff but in my opinion the safety of people should always come first.

What is even worse is that extreme right political parties in Italy are using this for their campaign: they are stating that the victims of the earthquake who have lost their homes have to stay in tents whereas immigrants stay in hotels or houses at this moment. I think this is ridiculous but, strangely, people are impressed by such quotes. Probably because they are angry and looking for a scapegoat.’