Tent city that awaits the G8

The choice of L'Aquila to host this week's summit of world leaders has highlighted Italy's failure to help the victims of the quake

Silvio Berlusconi switched the location of the G8 summit to the city of L'Aquila as a way of focusing world attention on Italy's most disastrous earthquake for 30 years.

But as Hu Jintao, the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, touched down in Rome yesterday, the first of 40 world leaders to arrive for the summit, residents were sceptical that the presence of so many grandees on their doorstop would do them much good.

More than 300 people died, 1,500 were injured and 70,000 made homeless by the quake that struck exactly three months ago. In the days that followed the disaster, Mr Berlusconi, not yet embroiled in the sex scandal that is now dogging him, took personal charge of the rescue effort, visiting the city and meeting survivors each day.

It was widely recognised that the first phase of the emergency – getting the victims housed in tents or seaside hotels, and properly fed and looked after – was handled brilliantly.

Even Mr Berlusconi's celebrated remark to survivors that they should regard their spell on the coast as a camping holiday detracted little from the achievement.

But progress now appears to have ground to a halt, with attention more focused on cosmetic makeovers for the arrival of Barack Obama, Gordon Brown, Nicolas Sarkozy and the rest, according to Massimo Manieri, a spokesman for the Association for the Reconstruction of L'Aquila.

"The first phase of the emergency was great," he said. "But then the authorities made a massive mistake: instead of building temporary housing to get the homeless out of tents as fast as possible, they decided to skip that phase altogether and move to permanent housing immediately. But none of that has been built yet. I will be surprised if even a fraction of what is required is built by December."

Mr Manieri said that 15,000 people were still living in tents and another 30,000 in hotels and in other accommodation, at huge public expense. Bureaucratic delays in getting building permits issued meant that work on reconstruction had barely begun.

"The city's situation is frozen," he said. "Until people get into homes, even temporary ones, economic activity cannot begin."

Meanwhile the feverish preparation for the summit had removed attention, money and people from the reconstruction effort, he claimed.

Yet the only work that had been done on the city in the run-up to the event had been superficial, he said.

The roads that the motorcades of President Obama and the other leaders will travel along to get to the Tax Police barracks where the summit is being held had all been renovated, "creating a great image of the city for the visitors. But it's all to do with creating an image." And there's more: "Last week they held a televised open-air concert in the central piazza of the old city for a carefully selected audience of 200, giving the impression that the centre was once again open to the public. But it's not true: none of the shops has re-opened. There is a huge information gap between what people see on television and the reality." Meanwhile, the earth tremors intensified again this week, with a recent tremor measuring 4.0 on the Richter scale driving many residents back into tents. Italy's earthquake monitoring service said the chances of the city being struck by an even bigger quake had risen from 13 per cent in June to about 30 per cent now.

This gives the summit's organisers a major headache: it has been decided that if L'Aquila is struck by a quake of four or stronger, the event will be relocated to Rome – not to Palazzo Madama or another of the baroque palaces where top-drawer foreign dignitaries are normally entertained, but to another police barracks, the Superior Police Institute.

The leaders would be whisked away by helicopter, but any delegations temporarily stranded in the city would be smartly moved into tents – giving them a brief taste of what the city's terremotati or "earthquaked" population have put up with all these months.

Agenda: G8 summit

The G8 countries are Canada , France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK and the US. The world's five largest emerging economies will meet separately and nine African nations will join the forum later.

Big issues on the agenda are how to revive the global economy, cut emissions of greenhouse gases by 50 per cent by 2050, and tackle hunger in the world's poorest regions by the launch of a new "food security initiative".

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Savvy Media Ltd: Media Sales executive - Crawley

£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible