Italy commits to long-term earthquake preparedness

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction - Regional Office for Europe & Central Asia
Rescue workers at the scene of  last Wednesday's earthquake
Rescue workers at the scene of last Wednesday's earthquake

GENEVA, 31 August 2016 - Italian Prime Minister, Mr. Matteo Renzi, is to introduce a major overhaul of how the country prepares for earthquakes following last Wednesday’s earthquake in central Italy which has claimed 292 lives so far.

The national plan will be called Casa Italia and will include making structures earthquake-proof across the country and a range of other environmental measures.

The government is also to appoint a special commissioner to oversee the reconstruction effort in Amatrice and other mountain villages affected by last week’s earthquake, with clear schedules for work completion and expenditure approvals.

The long-term effort to bring Italy up to international seismic safety standards could take 50 years “but the fact that it’s a long-term project isn’t a good reason not to start immediately,” the Prime Minister wrote in a newsletter to his supporters.

Safe schools have been a key plank of government policy for several years and it has set aside four €4 billion for school safety over the last two years. There have been 850 interventions specifically for seismic safety, in addition to the construction of new buildings.

An investigation has been opened into why Amatrice's school collapsed though it was built in 2012 and a census is getting underway to gather information on damages that occurred to school buildings located throughout the earthquake area which includes 18 municipalities, eight of which are in Zone One, classified as the most dangerous for earthquake risk.

The overall scale of the “Safe Schools” challenge across the country is evident from the fact that 3,500 school buildings are located in the most dangerous areas (Zone 1) and 16,700 in high-risk areas (Zone 2). One estimate is that 1,922 hospitals and clinics are located in these zones in addition to millions of homes.

According to Reuters, Italy has suffered 36 earthquakes with a magnitude of 5 and above since 1900. Many of the buildings in the earthquake-exposed areas were built in centuries past when little was known about seismic risk.

Cultural Minister Mr. Dario Franceschini said an estimated 293 culturally important sites had either collapsed or been seriously damaged in this latest earthquake.

Italy sits on two fault lines, making it one of the most seismically active countries in Europe. Almost 30 people died in earthquakes in northern Italy in 2012 while more than 300 died in a quake in the L'Aquila disaster.

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