IN VIDEOS: Italy's firefighters continue tireless work to rebuild quake-hit region

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IN VIDEOS: Italy's firefighters continue tireless work to rebuild quake-hit region
A firefighter walks through Amatrice's damaged centre in April 2017, eight months after the deadly quake. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Italy's earthquake-hit towns may have dropped off the radar for many outside central Italy, but the country's firefighters haven't slowed down in their efforts to restore the mountain towns to their former glory.


Since the first major quake on August 24th, Italy's firefighters have carried out 88,549 checks on damaged buildings in the regions of Lazio, Le March, and Umbria. A further 55,914 operations have  residents recover their personal belongings.

On May 1st - a bank holiday across Italy - more than 500 firefighters were at work in the earthquake-hit region to continue on recovery operations. The videos below give an idea of the huge scale of their efforts.

Retrieving belongings

Many of those living in the quake-hit region had to leave their homes with no time to grab their belongings, and have been staying with friends, family, or in hotels since the disasters.

Even in those houses which were spared by the tremors, re-entry may be forbidden due to instability, with many of the towns' historic centres still cordoned-off 'red zones' and the first temporary homes only just starting to arrive. Firefighters have carried out almost 56,000 operations to help locals retrieve personal items from their houses.

Securing churches

Several medieval churches partially or entirely collapsed in the quakes, ranging from small parish churches to larger cathedrals, including one of the most significant cultural casualties, Norcia's Basilica di San Benedetto.

In the video below, firefighters are lifted up to fix a cathedral's stained glass windows in Norcia. Elsewere, they have worked to secure the facades of damaged churches, and to repair cracks to walls and roofs.

The iconic bell tower of Amatrice was one of the only structures left standing after the first, deadly tremor, but gave way some months later. At Easter however, its bells were able to ring again in the temporary structure as the 'red helmets' work to rebuild the local treasure.

Repairing homes

Many of the towns in the mountain region have become ghost towns as locals were either advised to leave or chose to abandon their homes after the tremors. Local mayors have stressed the importance of rebuilding a sense of community, which means restoring the houses as quickly - and safely - as possible.

In the video below, the roof of a damaged home is carefully repaired - one of over 4,000 such operations since last August.

But many homes were damaged beyond repair in the quakes and have had to be destroyed by firefighters in order to be rebuilt. Several schools in the area - including some which had been built to withstand quakes - were also left unusable, and have been dismantled.

Restoring artworks

Firefighters have been working together with teams of art historians, archaeologists, and restorers in order to repair as best as possible the many damaged masterpieces, the majority of which were housed in churches. The so-called Art Squad has been rescuing around 60 works every day since the quakes, which in some cases involves sifting through rubble to retrieve tiny fragments in the hope of later re-constructing the works.

In the video below, rescuers retrieve a 16th-century canvas from a church in Le Marche hamlet Fiordimonte.

Assisting farmers

Another sector badly hit by the series of quakes was agriculture, which together with tourism forms the backbone of the region's economy.

In the video below, a machine used for sowing lentils is pulled from the rubble. The lentil harvest this spring became a symbol of post-earthquake rebirth; after both quake damage and bureaucracy put the harvests at risk, farmers petitioned the government and were eventually allowed access to their lentil fields.

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Photo: Conapo




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