2009-2016. The capital of Abruzzo is still soulless. There are about 400 construction sites but reconstruction has been delayed until 2022. And the families of the victims still wait for justice

L’Aquila seven years later, an infinite earthquake

The snapshot of the L’Aquila’s historic center is a sky crisscrossed by cranes. The gaze stops, even quieter, propped between off-limits buildings and roads. With the inscription, which begins to fade, “Red Zone”, or off limits to all passages, even pedestrian.

The arms of the mechanical vehicles make up a forest, they stand out everywhere, they almost fight for a little bit of blue, staring from the top of tattered buildings; standing gashes of stately buildings, deformed and unhinged shutters and pieces of toilets and closets that doze among piles of dust inside gutted apartments, behind doors closed with chains and padlocks.

Usually, there is a swarm of workers. Seven years after the earthquake that devastated the capital of Abruzzo and the surrounding area at 3:32 of April 6th, 2009, causing 309 deaths and more than 1,500 wounded, it is still a disoriented city.

Times get longer

It was promised that reconstruction would be completed by 2017. But the forecasted completion times are still very long. Downtown, several businesses have reopened timidly as well as some public offices, including the Mayoralty offices. But compared to the activity before the disaster, it is just a small part.
And only resignation can be read in the eyes of those who have returned here to work and to invest. “One works mainly with workers – the traders say -. Sales languish, but we must move forward. And when the masons clock out, it’s like if a sort of curfew punches out. ”

“When the earthquake happens, is not limited to a few seconds of shock. It goes on until the wake of the damage caused is repaired. Those material damages as well as the social, mental and psychological ones. Because the earthquake gets inside you and does not let you go. Because of this – reflects the journalist Enrico De Pietra – I would not speak of seven years after the earthquake, but of 7 years of earthquake. Seven years in some surreal environment, during which, at least apparently, we got used to everything: our dead, the diaspora, the return, the insecurity, impermanence, the desertification of the historical center, the quarrels and malfeasance. But there is one thing we have not gotten used to: not to be able to have the prerogatives of an ordinary provincial community, beginning with the opportunity to meet one another without arranging an appointment. There is a shortage of places for this; not places built ad hoc, but the everyday sites. And for the Aquilani, these places were in the old town. The neighborhoods around are almost entirely rebuilt and repopulated, but there’s no way, they were not born to be autonomous and aggregating. Today – he highlights – you enter the heart of the city, we observe it from a distance, and you understand that they are working at full capacity. ”

There are more than 420 active construction sites.

“The fact is, though, it is still a suspended place. Official estimates – he adds – indicate that by 2022 the heart of L’Aquila will be totally rebuilt. But no one, not even those who produced these estimates, can honestly say with certainty whether the forecast will be respected. ”

‘Privileged’ suburbs

Life is concentrated in the suburbs, in the few shopping centers that have become privileged meeting points, since there are no alternatives.

Life moved mostly to the 19 new towns, which were announced on the same day of the tragedy. While some were crying, while others were digging under the piles of rubble, under the remnants of rooms, while the coffins were being lined up. And while some entrepreneurs celebrated the businesses caused by the disaster.

8,351 citizens still live in temporary facilities – those whose own homes are uninhabitable -, scattered in CASE projects (case means home in Italian), earthquake-resistant environmentally friendly apartment buildings built in the rush of the emergency upon Berlusconi’s signature and the then head of the Civil Protection Guido Bertolaso, and in the “MAP” (provisional housing modules), the so-called log cabins.

But there are also housing problems for students: there are still 17 MUSP (provisional Modules for school use) that are home to about 6,000 pupils.

“Despite the numerous management problems that arose over the years – says Fabio Pelini, Advisor of Assistance to Population – these facilities have been a landmark in the post-tragedy hot phases (when there were 16,000 displaced persons, editor’s note), but later , they have also allowed to respond to the many housing needs created by the worsening of the economic crisis. Today – he added – we leave behind the most difficult period and the next goal is to rationalize the use of this property portfolio, retaining the well-built structures and dismantling the battered ones.”

Yes, because the buildings of the Case project, which cost a billion Euros to build, with the operation run entirely by the Civil Defence, are showing their limits.

In essence, these are bedroom communities, lacking all services, which are falling apart, with some exceptions. Infiltrations in the apartments and garages, dampness and mold that also favor the growth of fungi, losses from drains, flooding, floors that crack open, sewage problems.

In September 2014, a balcony collapsed in the village of Cese Preturo and the judiciary and the Forest Service placed 800 balconies under seizure in five of these settlements: not only at Preturo, but also at Arischia, Collebrincioni, Sassa and Coppito. And so, in these houses, families are forced to be ‘sealed’ inside the dwelling’s walls, without being able to look out.

On April 3rd, another balcony collapsed in the village of Cese Preturo, also ‘for structural failure “, where fortunately some buildings had already been evacuated. A gentleman who was walking with the dog raised the alarm. The man heard the thud and alerted authorities.

Due to these incidents, yesterday the city hall issued an evacuation order of other apartment buildings, for public safety.

New homes, balconies collapse

There is an open investigation for construction defects and supply of inferior materials for the collapse of Cese, with 39 suspects. The wood used for the balconies and the dwellings had been provided by Safwood, under investigation in Piacenza for financial bankruptcy.

“If the Prosecution were to find that not only the balconies but also the floors of the apartments are at risk because of the very poor quality of the wood, I will have to find ways to put a roof over the heads of 700 families – says mayor Massimo Cialente -. In addition, the firms that built the new town in 2009 are contractually obligated to intervene on maintenance for 10 years, but many of them have gone bankrupt, and so the city does not know who will bear the costs.” In the most severe and costly cases, where remediation would cost millions, the mayor suggests the possible demolition of these buildings, which cost 2,700 euro per square meter and are an example of “waste of money and infiltration of mafia.”

Without forgetting the investigation on the seismic isolators, installed in large numbers under the slabs of the new town: during some laboratory tests in California, instead of resisting the simulated earthquake, they broke into pieces.
It goes like that, in an empty and lost city, frantically hunting for bargains and seeking justice … Because seven years later, we are still looking for the truth about what happened that fateful night.

There is a wound that slips and clings, disdainfully, to the numerous processes sprung from the drama.

Among them, one that generates more anger and scandal than the rest, there is the process against the High Risk commission. Just a few days ago, the Supreme Court has filed the reasons for the verdict which acquitted the luminaries that appeared before the court. “The six experts from the Commission – reads the judgment 12478 – were convened in L’Aquila by the Civil Protection, to its meeting on March 31th, 2009, and they were not aware of the fact that the meeting was aimed at providing a message of reassurance to the public.” Back then, the Civil Protection was led by Guido Bertolaso, currently a candidate for mayor of Rome at the snap elections in June.

According to the Supreme Court, “the scientists – Franco Barberi, Enzo Boschi, Giulio Selvaggi, Michele Calvi, Claudio Eva and Mauro Dolce – confirmed during the meeting alarm over the situation and denied the theory of earthquake predictability.”

Bertolaso ​​’fugitive’

According to the Supreme Court, only Bernardo De Bernardinis, back then Bertolaso’s deputy, “overdid it” when calming a frightened city. “Nothing will happen.” And instead it was a massacre. Was De Bernardis coached by Bertolaso? There are phone calls, interviews and intercepts that prove it, but …

Bertolaso has two open proceedings for this, one criminal, where he is accused of multiple manslaughter that will lapse on October 7th, and a civilian one.
“Relatives of the victims – says the city councilor Vincenzo Vittorini – are asking Bertolaso to allow the ​​process to continue, giving the imminent prescription.” There is also a petition for this. “We are claiming for the judiciary do its course in ascertaining possible responsibilities. A chorus of thousands of voices demand it. ”

As for the civil trial, the last audience was cancelled because Bertolaso ​​turns out to be “untraceable”. So no summons could be delivered.

“He lives in the luxury Parioli district  in Rome – says Antonietta Centofanti, coordinator of the committee” Relatives of the crash victims of the student’s house “- he can be seen by the entire country with appearances in all public and private television networks, but he cannot be found by a messenger of the judiciary that must deliver a summons to the courtroom. It is a serious lack of respect, even towards our dead. What happened affects not only us but all the Italians. “

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