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Illegal building and the Ischia earthquake

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Illegal building and the Ischia earthquake

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Ischia is an island at risk of earthquakes. Last week’s magnitude 4.0 quake was relatively benign compared to one at the end of the 19th century that killed more than 2,000 people. Nevertheless two people lost their lives, struck by rubble from collapsing buildings.

Local authorities ascribed the failure of a number of structures in the face of the earthquake to the fact that they had been constructed in the 1930s, before modern regulations were introduced. However, some people feel that a recent building boom based around cheap materials has heightened the risk to the island’s residents.

After the quake, a deep political fault line initiated over the country’s proliferation new builds, many of which lack correct permissions and therefore have not been tested against regulations.

“A building designed without anti-seismic regulations can withstand modest earthquakes, but it will show a range of problems, including tilting of walls,” Cristian Grossi, an environmental and civil engineer specializing in anti-seismic engineering, told Euronews.

The Campania region, of which Ischia is a part, was singled out as the worst in Italy for breaking rules around coastal construction: environmental group Legambiente identified 764 infringements noted by port authorities and by the police in a July report. The Campania region accounts for more than a fifth of all such incidents in Italy.

The national president of Legambiente, Rossella Muroni, told Euronews that 600 building have been ordered to be torn down on the island.

“Ischia has always been a symbol of illegal building, random overbuilding and impunity,” Legambiente wrote in a public statement. In fact, between 2001 and 2011, only 4% of the illegal buildings in the Naples area have been demolished. With 60,000 inhabitants Ischia, has notched up more than 27,000 requests of amnesty for infringement of building regulations.

Illegal works have been identified in some of the collapsed buildings, including one where three brothers were rescued.

On 25 August the Naples Prosecutor’s office opened an investigation against unknown persons, for the hypothesis of a multiple involuntary manslaughter and fraudulent collapse.

By Maria Michela D’Alessandro