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Italian government pledges temporary housing for new quake victims

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has promised temporary housing for those affected by the country’s strongest quake in 36 years. Around 15,000 people displaced by Sunday morning’s magnitude 6.6 jolt require assistance.

Renzi vowed to ensure local residents were adequately housed, as temperatures plummeted to near zero on Sunday night, effectively ruling out relying on tent-cities.

“We cannot have tents for some months in the mountains, under the snow,” he wrote in a message on Monday. “There are enough hotels for everyone. But many of our compatriots don’t want to leave their lands, not even for some weeks.”

Sunday’s quake, the largest of a series of shocks, struck at around 7.40 am local time (06:40 UTC).

The earthquake – the most powerful to hit Italy since a 6.9-magnitude quake struck the south of the country in 1980, leaving 3,000 people dead – caused no deaths or serious injuries but left heavy damage to many buildings in towns and villages between the Marche and Umbria regions.

Civil protection officials in the central mountainous area said they expected the number of people needing assistance to rise further; many people had slept in vehicles or stayed with friends or relatives on Sunday night.

Authorities put the lack of injuries in this latest jolt down to so many residents fleeing the region after a strong quake in August this year, near Amatrice. That tremor registered at magnitude 6.0, 298 died.

The town of Norcia, some 55 kilometers (34 miles) south of Amatrice, which was largely unscathed by the August quake, was devastated by the current seismic events, forcing many of its residents to leave. As well as homes and stores, several historic churches, including a Benedictine cathedral, were damaged.

Around 4,000 people from the worst-hit area around Norcia were sent to the Adriatic coast, where summer resort hotels are mostly idle, and other zones away from the quake.

More than 10,000 are being put up in converted sports halls and other temporary facilities nearby, including in one case, a specially converted train.

But there are increasing reports of residents refusing to leave in the belief that if their homes have so far not collapsed, that they remain the safest place to be.

On Monday, the area was struck by several aftershocks, leaving residents anxious.

“Sleep? Everything is shaking here. How are you going to sleep?” asked Marco Rinaldi, mayor of the village of nearby Ussita. “The truth is, the nightmare is not yet over. It’s the fear that’s pushing us to the edge.”

In the Italian capital, Rome, nearly all schools were closed Monday for structural checks and there was traffic chaos in the east of the capital because of the closure of a key flyover for assessment by engineers.

An Italian seismologist has warned that more significant quakes can be expected.

Carlo Doglioni, from the National Institute for Geophysics and Vulcanology, said “we can expect some 5 magnitude quakes and many of magnitude 4.”

mm/msh (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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