Grief in G8’s quake-ravaged venue

In L’Aquila, residents remain busy with rebuilding despite visits by politicians.

L'Aquila G8 earthquake package, Alan Fisher
Regular aftershocks continue to send L’Aquila’s residents running onto the streets

In Piazza San Pietro Coppito, the only noise that can be heard is when the wind stirs the blue tarpaulin covering some of the buildings.

Three months ago, the people of L’Aquila were woken by an earthquake. It lasted just 35 seconds – and killed around 300 people.

In depth

Al Jazeera’s coverage of the G8 summit

In the city from which the region takes its name, few of the 58,000 residents have returned.

The streets are empty, houses deserted and shops abandoned.

In what was a bustling university town, it is unsettling to walk the silent, sun-baked streets and see in the remnants of the buildings clothes dangling on rails, pictures hanging perfectly straight while the walls lurch at bizarre angles.

All reminders of lives interrupted.

Shattered lives

About 1,300 fire-fighters are still working here, shoring-up buildings, clearing debris and pulling possessions from the wreckage.

Every day there are aftershocks, some strong enough to send everyone scrambling into the open.

In one small corner of the city sits Yolanda Pagnica’s home.

Yolande Pagnica is still living in a caravan after her home was destroyed

It’s too dangerous to return, too damaged to ever be repaired.

So, with her husband and daughter, she has travelled 10km to her childhood home where she plans to build a house a short distance from the one she grew up in, the same one in which her parents died in the earthquake.

There isn’t a house there at the moment.

There’s a rough shell of a building and one room which they use for cooking and storing the few possessions they have.

With her husband and her 10-year-old daughter, they sleep in a tiny caravan a safe distance from the house.

We talk about life since the earthquake.

Swallowing the tears, Yolanda tells me: “I will never recover my previous life.

“Something similar maybe, because I have my husband, my daughter and some dear friends, but my previous life will never happen again.

“I have lost everything from my past because here, where my parents lived, here there is nothing.

“My parents are not here, they are dead, and we couldn’t rescue any of our stuff, not one personal effect.

“The house where I used to live is still falling down and the bureaucracy makes everything worse.”

Political sideshow

She makes some coffee and pours out water. She gives the impression she likes to be busy, to have something to focus on rather than the mess she’s living in.

This week the leaders of the world’s eight richest countries will travel to L’Aquila for the Group of Eight (G8) summit.

It was due to be held in Sardinia but, after the earthquake, Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s colourful prime minister, ordered it should be moved to draw attention and resources to the area.

I ask Yolanda if having such powerful people meeting just a few kilometres away will make a difference to her, or the efforts to rebuild the area.

G8 organisers insist there will be a positive knock-on effect for residents

She laughs and pulls a face: “Dealing with my problems on a daily basis means that I’m thinking about other things – I don’t have time to think about politics.

“I wish, after the G8, that they can make some changes for us, for all the people living in this territory – and who want to stay living here – and rebuild their lives.”

Three months on, there are still thousands of people living in tents all over this region.

There are many here who believe that the summit will divert time, money and resources from those who need it most.

Mattia Lolli is a local activist who wants to make sure the voices of L’Aquila are heard during the summit.

“The media say the building – the reconstruction – is going very fast and the people are happy.

“It’s not true.

“The only works we have seen here are for the G8 like to prepare a party or a theatre. The reality is much different,” Mattia says.

The G8 organisers insist most of the work that has been done here for the summit will help those affected by the earthquake.

The building where the leaders sleep will be turned into homes, the hospital has been improved. They say roads will bring tourists in the future.

The people here know the world leaders will leave L’Aquila on Friday.

They just hope the promises they have been made in the run up to this summit won’t disappear as quickly.

If you have any questions on the G8 summit in L’Aquila (July 8-10), Alan will be hosting a live debate on Livestation on Friday, July 10 at 16GMT. 

Download the console player at to join the discussion.

Source: Al Jazeera

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