Italy earthquake – could the area be rebuilt? 293 important sites and churches damaged or destroyed. ShelterBox team departs, hoping to return.

There is optimistic talk today of rebuilding and recovery in the quake zones of Marche, Umbria and Lazio. As Italy turns out en masse to donate via public museums nationwide, a team from the ShelterBox agency flies home, hoping soon to revisit and help the area’s fragile rural economy.

They are still counting the human and economic cost of last Wednesday’s earthquake, but thoughts are turning today to the enormous cultural cost too, where almost three hundred heritage sites and buildings now lie shattered. Churches and medieval buildings have gone, but there is talk of them rising from the ashes.

In a special day offering hope amid despair, Italians nationwide have been urged to donate by visiting museum sites in an act of solidarity and sympathy with the quake districts of Marche, Umbria and Lazio. Funds will be used to support quake victims. Visiting the stricken area on August 27th and attending a funeral for 35 of the near 300 dead, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said, ‘We will decide all together how to get going again, but don’t give up, that is crucial.’

Much media attention has been on the hilltop town of Amatrice, a focal point of one of Italy’s most precious and protected agricultural communities, famous for its ancient buildings, surrounding farms and vineyards, and for world-famous amatriciana pasta sauce. Little remains of its much-loved skyline, and it is now a ‘red zone’ open only to emergency vehicles. At least 235 died here, most of them as they slept in the early hours of Wednesday. Mayor Sergio Pirozzi says, ‘We want to restore Amatrice to what it was when they were here. Getting down to work – for them – is the right thing to do. It would be a wonderful way to make them happy. Their sacrifice means that we owe it to them.’

A team from international disaster relief agency ShelterBox has spent recent days liaising with Italian Civil Protection, colleague charities, its own Milan-based affiliate, and with local Rotarians. The conversations will continue, but they are flying home to carry on planning how best to help.

Team leader Phil Duloy says, ‘The Italian authorities have very efficiently met shelter, medical and other needs. The proximity to Rome, and the high proportion of properties here owned as holiday homes, have been factors in a generally effective response.’

‘But we have been discussing a possible niche role for ShelterBox, helping farmers in remote areas to continue with their livelihoods after this damaging blow. We will carry on discussing with the agricultural network Confederazione Italiana Agricoltori and its subsidiary, the Young Farmers of Lazio, how we may be able to offer aid items to help the rural economy recover.’

Farming and agri-tourism are the lifeblood of this area, and many of the farms and homesteads are isolated and inaccessible. Farmers’ houses may have been damaged or destroyed, yet cattle still have to be attended and harvests gathered in. We are urgently constructing a plan with the Italian authorities that we hope will allow us to aid farmers in recovering from this week’s awful events.

ShelterBox’s specialist equipment includes tents designed to withstand strong winds and extreme temperatures, solar lighting to give safety and security where power is down, and water filtration to make contaminated water safe to drink. Team members Phil Duloy, Clio Gressani and Ed Owen flew out of Rome airport on August 28th, returning to ShelterBox bases in London and Truro, Cornwall.