Prosecutors in Rieti, Lazio have placed five people under investigation, almost a year after the 6.0 magnitude quake devastated Amatrice on August 24th, 2016. These are the first charges to be brought since the disaster.
The probe relates to the collapse of a public housing building in Piazza Augusto Sagnotti, where 19 people aged between 12 and 81 died.
In total, 299 people died in that quake, the majority of them (238) in Amatrice, which was almost completely destroyed. A series of further major quakes caused more damage in the region in October.
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Two directors of the construction firm which built the apartment blocks are under investigation, along with one public housing worker, a civil engineer, and a former city councillor.
According to prosecutors, the blocks were not built to safety standards, due to incorrect calculations and poor quality materials. The five suspects are accused of manslaughter for their roles in building the apartments and providing certificates affirming its fitness for use.
“The buildings were built very badly, and this isn't the case for other buildings put up in the same square by the same company,” chief prosecutor Giuseppe Saieva told news programme Tg1. “It was about savings; a problem of costs and profit. The fact that this was a building built by the State saddens us – we need to do more.”
“We're trying to give answers to those who are waiting for them, and there are still dozens of other investigations to conclude,” said Saieva.
Directly after the quake, Amatrice's mayor said: “Three quarters of the town just isn't there any more.”
Drone footage shows the town covered in snow in January.
Since the original disaster, aftershocks and new tremors have destroyed the town's weakened buildings, with its iconic church and bell tower falling in January this year.
Concern was raised over buildings which collapsed despite supposedly being renovated to quake-proof norms. Amatrice's Romolo Capranica school was one of the recently renovated buildings which failed to survive the tremors.
Earlier in 2016, four technicians were handed culpable homicide sentences by Italy's top court, which judged them partially responsible for the deaths of eight students who died when their university residence collapsed during the 2009 L'Aquila quake.