Five minutes. That is all the time Cecilia was given to recover what belongings she could from her home in Italy’s earthquake-shattered town of L’Aquila. Authorities are taking no chances, with hundreds of aftershocks in the stricken zone since last Monday’s tragedy.
As the death toll rose to 294, engineers were evaluating the stability of buildings. One school near L’Aquila looked structurally sound and experts believe it could be reopened within a relatively short time. Seismic engineer Gaetano Mafredi said buildings that sustained the big earthquake without damage will not succumb to another quake of equal intensity. On his latest visit to the area, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi again sought to reassure survivors that time is of the essence in getting them rehoused. “For the moment, we have had no choice but to offer them these tents. We have set up 60 camps to deal with the immediate emergency,” he said. Vowing that this time it would not be like after such events in the past, he added: “We will ensure people will be back, living in houses.” But the mood for the thousands inside the tent cities remains grim after Italy’s worst earthquake in a generation. As the mainly Roman Catholic country marks Easter, one homeless man said his faith was the only thing he has left.