Five people face charges over Amatrice earthquake building collapses

Five people are facing charges including manslaughter in connection with building collapses after the deadly earthquakes which hit Italy last year.

Five people face charges over Amatrice earthquake building collapses
The destroyed historic centre of Amatrice. Photo: AFP

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.

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.

READ ALSO: How Italy plans to rebuild its earthquake-damaged towns



Italy remembers murdered anti-mafia judge Falcone

Italy commemorated the death of Italian judge Giovanni Falcone on Monday, thirty years after the brutal Capaci bombing.

Italy remembers murdered anti-mafia judge Falcone

The entire country paid tribute on Monday to anti-mafia judge Giovanni Falcone, killed by the Sicilian mafia 30 years ago in a car bomb murder that shocked the country.

Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese laid a wreath at the memorial at the site of the blast at Capaci, near Palermo, that killed Falcone, his wife, and three members of his police escort on May 23rd 1992.

Another ceremony in Palermo was attended by Italian President Sergio Mattarella, whose brother Piersanti, then Sicily’s regional president, was also murdered by the mafia.

In a statement, Prime Minister Mario Draghi hailed the legacy of Falcone, saying that thanks to his “courage, professionalism and determination, Italy has become a freer and fairer country”.

He said Falcone and his colleagues – one of whom, Paolo Borsellino, was killed by Cosa Nostra two months later – “dealt decisive blows against the mafia”.

“Their heroism had rooted anti-mafia values in society, in new generations, in republican institutions,” he added, saying the “relentless fight against organised crime and […] the search for truth” must continue.

The mob used a skateboard to place a 500-kilogramme (1100-pound) charge of TNT and ammonium nitrate in a tunnel under the motorway which linked the airport to the centre of Palermo.

Falcone, driving a white Fiat Croma, was returning from Rome for the weekend. At a look-out point on the hill above, a mobster nicknamed “The Pig” pressed the remote control button as the judge’s three-car convoy passed.

The blast ripped through the asphalt, shredding bodies and metal, and flinging the lead car several hundred metres.

READ ALSO: How murdered judge Giovanni Falcone shaped Italy’s fight against the mafia

On July 19th, Borsellino was also killed in a car bomb attack, along with five members of his escort. Only his driver survived.

Falcone posed a real threat to Cosa Nostra, an organised crime group made famous by The Godfather trilogy, and which boasted access to the highest levels of Italian power.

He and Borsellino were later credited with revolutionising the understanding of the mafia, working closely with the first informants and compiling evidence for a groundbreaking ‘maxi-trial’ in which hundreds of mobsters were convicted in 1987.

“Thanks to Falcone and Borsellino, the Sicilian mafia became a notorious fact, not something that had to be proved to exist at every trial,” anti-mafia prosecutor Marzia Sabella told AFP.