Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has paid tribute to the victims of an earthquake that devastated entire towns five years ago
Nearly 300 people were killed when a 6.2-magnitude quake struck central Italy in the early hours of 24 August 2016.
It was the first of more than a dozen tremors that hit the region over the following months and left thousands of people homeless.
As many as 237 people were buried under the rubble in Amatrice, a medieval hill town that is the birthplace of Italy’s famed Amatriciana pasta dish. A further 51 people were killed in the nearby municipality of Arquata and 11 others in Accumoli.
On Tuesday, Draghi laid a commemorative wreath at the monument to victims at the Don Minozzi park in Amatrice on the fifth anniversary of the disaster.
The Italian PM then took part in a Mass at a nearby sports field attended by local residents and vowed to accelerate reconstruction efforts in the region.
Italian government officials had pledged to rebuild Amatrice’s crumbled historic centre and other nearby towns following the earthquake, but bureaucratic problems have slowed the effort to a crawl.
"In the past it was slow, but now the situation is different," Draghi told a committee of residents, according to a statement.
"Reconstruction work is proceeding faster. I’m here to bring you the confidence and commitment of the government."
Recently a government-appointed commissioner for reconstruction announced that the project was speeding up amid a streamlined process to approve plans and funding. According to a status update in June, 12,000 homes had been built and work was underway at 5,000 more sites.
To date, residents and business owners have made requests for reconstruction funding totalling €5.4 billion. One-third of the 10,000 requests authorised to date received approval in the first six months of this year, the report added.