Italian earthquake survivors now brave cold, rain, fear of being forgotten

Rome, Aug 31 (IANS) The 3,500 people who lost their homes a week ago in the earthquake that shook Central Italy and were sheltering in tents must now brave rain, cold and, above all, a fear of being forgotten.

There is a growing concern about coping with the looming months of winter with only a tent, while they await more suitable accommodation, EEE news reported.

“Don’t abandon us” is an often repeated phrase by earthquake survivors whenever government authorities visit their shelters.

Since Tuesday, the weather conditions have worsened in the disaster-hit area that suffered a magnitude 6 earthquake and completely devastated villages in the Apennines Mountain range.

It rained on Tuesday night and the weather forecast indicates worsening of conditions.

“Rain! This is just what they needed!” said Franco Santini of the Confederation of the Misericordie d’Italia, the Catholic Italian Voluntary Service Organisation that has dispatched 120 volunteers to assist the Italian Civil Defence and has also erected and manages two tent camps for 500 persons in Amatrice.

Santini, is a lawyer who has shortened his holidays and sent his wife and three daughters home to come and help.

He explained the rain has made things such as cooking or simply passing the time a lot more difficult in the camps, as everything is now caked in mud.

Santini said survivors are slowly coming to terms with what happened.

“Now they sit down and tell you how lucky they have been, they speak of friends they have lost and also their hopes for the future,” said Santini.

“Solidarity has really worked,” and the camps “have got everything, blankets, toys, nappies”, despite difficult times, said Santini.

Santini explained the camps were well stocked with food and there was a doctor on call 24 hours a day for each camp.

“Now, our biggest fear is the snow,” an old lady who lost her home in Arquata told EFE.

“We hope it will fall as late as possible while they search for more suitable winter accommodation.”

The Deputy Mayor of Arquata, Michele Franchi, said, “In a month they will have to supply us with more adequate housing as it gets cold and we cannot stay here.”

The tents are waterproof and now have heaters to warm them up but in the last hours they also had to install gang-walks and cover unpaved roads with gravel due to the mud.

Another concern for survivors was their belongings, left behind in their old homes and at risk of looters.

Hence, many have opted to ensure no one walks in and out of their houses, volunteers told EFE.

Santini said that, although the situation was good for now, and the evacuees were being properly looked after, they would not be able to stay where they are “much longer than a month”.

Authorities were studying their re-location, but some of them refused to abandon their old homes.

The big question being weighed up was whether pre-fabricated wooden houses would arrive in time, as promised.

But one thing remained clear, the imminent arrival of the cold Apennine Autumn.

–IANS

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