Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has celebrated his 73rd birthday, handing over apartments to victims of the earthquake in L’Aquila.
It was a relatively low-key event. Berlusconi was laying low after a string of sex scandals over summer. But the new residents weren’t complaining. “There’s a washing machine, a hairdryer, an ironing board, bathtowels, all the necessities for coming in and living here straight away,” one woman said. There was time for a brief tour of the apartments, with the Prime Minister playing guide. And he was in good form, joking with the families. To one woman who told him not to get angry with his rivals, he replied that they were the ones getting angry with him: “And indeed, it’s not worth it,” Berlusconi said. Around 400 apartments were handed over to those left homeless by the quake, adding to the around 100 consigned two weeks ago. Berlusconi called it a “miracle” that they were built so quickly, despite the Italian bureaucracy. Around 36,000 people are still homeless after the quake — living in tents or hotels. The authorities say 15,000 of them should be rehoused by the end of the year.