“The rubble is still there; nothing has been moved, recorded or stored,” said Sabrina Fantauzzi, founder of the Illica Vive committee. “And then there's the aggravating factor of the snow and frost.”
The committee was set up in the wake of the 6.0 magnitude earthquake of August 24th, which devastated several towns in Lazio, central Italy. Illica is a faction of Accumoli which, along with Amatrice, was one of the worst-hit towns.
As snow and freezing weather have descended over the central region in recent days, many of those made homeless by last year's series of tremors still have no fixed place to live. The poor weather has brought a halt to much of the recovery effort.
A damaged crucifix in an Accumoli church. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
Fantauzzi told The Local that towns in neighbouring regions, affected by major but non-fatal tremors in autumn last year, have received government assistance including log cabins and permission for residents to stay in their towns. “But for us, nothing”.
Around 400 residents from Illica, the other 16 factions making up Accumoli, and neighbouring towns including Arquata del Tronto and Capodacqua staged a protest over the weekend.
“Bureaucracy kills more than the earthquake,” read one of the banners.
— Paola Martellini (@Vialedeiciliegi) January 15, 2017
“It will take at least ten years to be able to return to our homes,” said Fantauzzi. “The demolitions haven't started yet, and we haven't even been able to empty our houses and recover our furniture, our memories of our lives and those of our ancestors.”
Pope Francis greets locals in Accumoli. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP
At the protests, locals criticized the lack of communication between central and regional institutions, the need for residents to be involved in and kept informed about the reconstruction process, and above all the need for concrete measures rather than vague promises of recovery.
The parish website also issued an appeal for donations, saying that it was currently unable to accept material donations, but still needed money for recovery efforts.
Illica Vive, run by Fantauzzi together with Elvira Mazzarella and Maurizio Orazietti, has also raised serious concerns over the need for asbestos removal and ensuring that the town's cemetery is secured.
“Coffins and crematoria were uprooted, creating serious hygiene and public health problems, as well as the destruction of the memory of our loved ones,” Fantauzzi notes.
The faction is home to just 24 permanent residents, but that number swells to 600 during the summer months, due to the many people who have second homes in what Fantauzzi calls “a paradise”. For now, most residents of Accumoli are staying in hotels in nearby city San Benedetto del Tronto – in contrast to victims of the October tremors nearby, most of whom have been able to stay close to their homes.
It is unlikely that second home owners will be able to spend the summer in Accumoli, something Illica Vive believe will damage the sense of community of the area.
“There is the huge problem of the farmers, who do not have stables or shelter for their animals, leading to serious damage to production,” explains Fantauzzi.
Damaged houses in Accumoli after the quake. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
“Then there's the problem of tourism: the B&B's, hotels and guest houses which cost hundreds of thousands of euros and are now destroyed or unfit for use. We don't even have any temporary accommodation in Illica so that we can have shelter when we go back to visit.”
But the greatest loss, to her and many other residents, is the loss of their former peaceful lives.
Fantauzzi describes Accumoli as “a magical place where children spent their days playing in the fields and streams, and grown-ups experienced peace, but which has now been wiped out by the earthquake and by bureaucracy.”
“Reconstruction will take time, we know that, and we are willing to wait. But we want facts, not bureacratic procedures which are too muddled to give any certainty. The earthquake interrupted our lives – but it's the bureacracy which threatens to destroy our hope of returning.”