MAMMA’S DIARY – DIARIO DI MAMMA
UPDATE 7:35 a.m. ET Aug. 28, 2016 – Over the weekend, Italians designated Saturday as a day of mourning and began having funerals for the victims of the devastating earthquake that struck central Italy Aug. 24. The death toll continues to rise as emergency responders and townspeople continue to dig out of the rubble. It is now up to 291 lives lost. Aftershocks continue, and the search is becoming more of a recovery operation and less of a rescue mission, according to CNN. The workers are trying to clear roads, which had been obstructed, making it difficult for emergency vehicles and equipment to get to the disaster area. And more bodies have been found this morning, according to CNN.
Now is also a time of reflection about what went wrong and how these deaths could have been prevented. The New York Times published a telling story about the cultural and political influences that are preventing Italians from better equipping their homes and businesses to stand up to such natural disasters. Concerns about the country’s economic woes and the rebuilding of these communities – two of which have been practically decimated – are top of mind with everyday citizens and the government’s leaders alike.
UPDATE 8:41 a.m. ET Aug. 26, 2016 – Aftershocks continue to rock the area in Italy where the earthquake first hit two days ago. The shaky ground is hampering rescue and recovery efforts during the crucial 72 hours after the quake, when there is still hope to find people alive. This morning tweeters and Italian news agencies reported, according to CNN, that the bridges in and out of Amatrice, one of the hardest hit towns, were no longer viable. So, emergency responders had to make building some sort of sound infrastructure a priority. There has been lots of celebration over a young girl, who was pulled from the rubble alive 17 hours after being buried. She has undergone surgery and is recovering now, according to Italian news agencies. Her parents were also saved, but her 10-year-old sister, who was lying next to her was sadly killed. At least 267 people perished as a result of the earthquake, according to NBC News. Below you’ll find links to sites that allow you to donate to charities serving the victims of the earthquake. The Italians, who are mostly Catholic, are a faithful people, and they ask that we all keep praying.
UPDATE 8:17 a.m. ET Aug. 25, 2016 – I just read in article posted by WKBN27 in Ohio that AT&T is waiving fees for calls from the United States to Italy through Friday, so that Americans can check in with their loved ones back home. You can learn more on the AT&T Website. The National Italian American Foundation is also accepting donations for quake victims. You can learn more on the NIAF Website. The death toll has been revised to 241 because some of the bodies were counted twice, according to CNN.
UPDATE 8 a.m. ET Aug. 25, 2016 – A day after a major earthquake rocked central Italy, the emergency responders continue to remove rubble to search for survivors. Unfortunately, the death toll keeps rising (now at 252). However, there was a spark of hope when a young girl was found alive and lifted from the debris. News outlets have been sharing the film, but I’ve seen Italian reports that the girl is named Giulia and is 5 years old, whereas CNN is reporting in English that her name is Giorgia and she’s 10. Regardless, she’s alive. That gave people the energy to keep looking for other survivors. You can read more about what’s happening and the experiences in the towns most effected by the quake on CNN’s Web site, which has videos, explanations and an updated, comprehensive report. One of our readers also shared information on our Facebook page about how restaurant owners in Italy are donating to the quake victims based on sales of Pasta all’ Amatriciana, which originated in the town of Amatrice, one of the hardest hit by the quake.
UPDATE 2:05 p.m. ET in New Jersey – Emergency responders continue working to dig people out of the rubble following the earthquake that hit in the early hours of the morning, while most were sleeping, Aug. 24. Prime Minister Renzi continues to point out Italy’s ability to pull together in times of crisis and refused to say how many more victims could be under the rubble. He reminded reporters that during the summer months, the populations of these towns in the mountains can double or triple with the number of tourists who visit and family members who return home. The rescue and recovery efforts are going to take a long time, and the people fear being forgotten. Many are sleeping on the street tonight either because their home has been destroyed or out of fear of aftershocks. World leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, have offered sympathy and assistance through their state departments. CNN is reporting that you can make donations to the Italian Red Cross.
UPDATE 9 a.m. ET in New Jersey – Italians are facing a blood shortage in the region most affected by the earthquake. All major hospitals in Rome are open and accepting blood donations.
7 a.m. ET in New Jersey – Some of our people are literally feeling the weight of their world on their shoulders at this very moment. What appears to be an older woman lies under piles of concrete and rubble with just enough space to breath, see daylight, and speak with a neighbor and a cameraman who promise help is on the way while blood dries on the woman’s visible limbs. A husband, awoken by the shaking ground, is just in time to push his wife off the bed as the wall violently falls onto it. The roof of a church collapses and crashes to the ground as the walls collapse around it. The whole thing is caught on tape. Two babies have been saved. A young girl carried out of the rubble elsewhere was not so lucky. She has lost her life. We have lost her.
A 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck near Rieti, north of Rome, where the shaking was felt by many, in the wee hours of the morning while most were sleeping in their beds. Some towns, including Pescara del Tronto and Amatrice have been practically leveled. The quake is being compared to the deadly Aquila earthquake of 2009. Those medical professionals who were away on vacation – it’s August, which means the country is in ferie (on holiday) – are being asked to return to help. “Italy cries,” says Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who also thanks all those who are volunteering to help and save as many lives as possible. “In moments of difficulty, Italy knows what to do,” he added before calling everyone back to work to pull people out of the rubble and provide some hope for the survivors. (CNN is providing live updates in English and I’ll be updating this post as more information becomes available for those who are interested.)
It’s too early to tell how many people have perished, how many are missing, or what kind of recovery the country is facing. What we can say is that the toll on the people and the places is grave. As I write this, I watch the Italian news (TG3 and other TV news direct from Italy), and I see townspeople and emergency workers trying to move bricks, builders, and rubble with their bare hands to get people out from under their homes. At press time there was no access to roads for heavy equipment that could help move the boulders more easily. The emergency responders want to work much faster than the work allows. They are yelling at those under the rubble to hang in there, to stay awake, to cling to life. Those who made it out of their homes, are visibly shaken or in shock and sitting in the street with hospital blankets.
The scene is familiar to my people in Ischia, who remember the 1980 earthquake that hit southern Italy, including nearby Naples. My relatives felt the shaking and ran out of their homes. Aftershocks came, and many people spent up to a week sleeping in the street for fear of the homes falling on them. Every time an earthquake hits, it stirs these ugly memories. Southern Italy is the poorest part of the country, and recovery from this kind of devastation is always a big challenge.
Much like the flooding that recently hit Louisiana in the United States, these natural disasters often touch the lives of the most vulnerable, the most in need, the least prepared financially. Right now, Italy is facing an economic crisis, and that’s been the focus of Renzi and others in the European Union in the wake of Brexit, Great Britain’s decision to leave the EU. Now, he’ll have to juggle economic recovery, a post-Brexit EU plan, and the clean up of this devastating earthquake. The emotional scars will last a lifetime for some of the survivors.
But the strength of the Italians is their commitment to family. Everything revolves around family, and family includes your neighbors and friends in the community. People stick by each other and they are generous with their time, affection, and food and drink. It is what draws people around the world to Italy. And it is what will get them through this latest tragedy.
Di Meglio has written the Our Paesani column for ItaliansRus.com since 2003. You can follow the Italian Mamma on Facebook or Twitter @ItalianMamma10.