'Yes we camp': protests greet wives in quake zone

Michelle Obama, Sarah Brown and 10 other first ladies toured the devastated heart of L'Aquila yesterday, seeing with their own eyes the city's earthquake damage but keeping well away from survivors – some called themselves "the last ladies" – protesting at the fact that they are still forced to live in tents, more than three months after the disaster.

The VIPs were escorted by Mara Carfagna, the woman who haplessly catalysed Silvio Berlusconi's difficulties with his wife two years ago when the Italian Prime Minister jocularly offered to marry her. The group walked through the city's medieval centre, much of it reduced to heaps of rubble, before pausing outside the regional government headquarters which was almost flattened by the shocks.

Mrs Obama was said to have been close to tears at times. She enquired about the children killed in the disaster and others scarred for life by the experience. "I'm very upset," she said. "My husband and I have been very moved by what we have seen, and we'll try and do everything we can to support you."

The city centre has been closed to normal life since the disaster, still far too perilous for shops and offices to reopen: the experts and politicians are still debating how much can be saved and what to do about the rest.

Meanwhile the tens of thousands of the homeless were out of reach in tendopoli (tent cities) closed to outsiders. But they did their best to make their presence felt. On a hillside overlooking the police college where the world's leaders were huddled in meetings, they had emblazoned a huge sign on the grass in English with the words "YES WE CAMP" – adapting Mr Obama's campaign slogan to advertise the fact that the "camping holiday" Mr Berlusconi recommended to those made homeless by the disaster has never ended.

"We want to underline the fact that for the first time in earthquake history, people still haven't been relocated to temporary housing," a man who was only identified as Enrico explained. "It was a clear government choice to keep us in the tents and not to go through an intermediate phase."

As Massimo Manieri, a spokesman of the Association for the Reconstruction of L'Aquila, said this week, after the disaster the government decided against building temporary housing for the quake survivors, instead keeping them under canvas or in hotels until permanent housing was built. The hitch: none of the houses have yet been built, and Mr Manieri said he would be surprised if even a fraction was ready before December, when the cold weather comes.

A group of "last ladies" chanted, "Michelle, come to our tents, the women of Abruzzo await you in their underwear." One held a sign reading, "A stroll in the centre for the first ladies, for the women of Aquila only tents and cement." But Mrs Obama was out of earshot.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
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

Chemistry Teacher

£100 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Urgently required teacher of Bi...

Geography Teacher, full time role, Gillingham School

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: We are urgently seeking an exper...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £Competitive: SThree: SThree Group and have be...

**Primary Teachers Needed Urgently in Southport**

£80 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: **Due to an increase in dema...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London