It’s become something of a morbid ritual in Italy – earthquakes always seem to be followed by investigations into why certain buildings which should not have collapsed, did. Collapsing buildings have claimed numerous lives.
Predictably, the swarm of earthquakes in the Modena area of Italy is being followed by a swathe of investigations into buildings which were supposed to be earthquake proof but weren’t. Exactly the same thing happened after the L’Aquila earthquake back in 2009, and after the Molise quake in 2002.
During recent earthquakes in the Modena area of Italy a number of factory workers were crushed to death by the buildings they were unlucky to find themselves working in at the time of the earthquakes. In some instances, no more than a few bolts could have prevented buildings from crashing down and killing those within.
Despite the fact that Italy has certifications and regulations designed to ensure buildings are earthquake resistant, builders, building owners and officials working for the certifying authorities either ignore the rules or, in the grand old Italian tradition, bend them. Either certifications of earthquake resistance are never applied for, or, one suspects, certificates which are genuine forgeries magically appear. Such certificates may well have been issued in return for an envelope full of cash. Inspections, if indeed they ever took place, were probably cursory. As a consequence, potentially dangerous buildings are everywhere in earthquake prone Italy.
Modern buildings Collapsed
During the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake, recently constructed buildings, such as a university hall of residence, collapsed killing those within. Exactly the same as what happened after the Modena area quakes. Such buildings should have been able to resist earthquakes.
Buildings which should not collapse during earthquakes tend to in Italy. One could safely bet money on the fact that a major earthquake in Italy will be followed by court cases brought against persons unknown for not having respected earthquake proofing regulations.
Regulations? Who Needs Them!
Stop reading, start speaking
Stop translating in your head and start speaking Italian for real with the only audio course that prompt you to speak.
Italians, by and large, tend to have little regard for rules and regulations. In part this may be because there are so many and they are so badly drafted and confusing that nobody really understands them anyway. The primary reason for bureaucracy in Italy is not to create sensible regulations. Oh no, the only reason for Italian bureaucracy is to keep bureaucrats in jobs and not much more, it seems. And, of course, overly complex regulations lead to avoidance maneuvers, which may well include offers of money to grease the hands of those who are supposed to be ensuring all the red tape is respected. This is otherwise known as corruption. It is also ironic that those who use the reams of red tape to keep themselves in jobs appear to find managing all the bureaucracy a distinct annoyance.
Earthquakes Equal Manna from Heaven
At the time of the L’Aquila earthquake, Italians were shocked to hear a telephone conversation in which an avaricious, unscrupulous developer rejoiced at all the money he was going to make rebuilding the area. Organized crime has also attempted to muscle in on the L’Aquila rebuilding works, and one can be more or less certain mafia building contractors will not bother with such niceties as respecting earthquake resistance requirements.
After the L’Aquila earthquake, as noted by Italian news website Linkiesta, the Berlusconi government approved the appointment of a small army of well paid consultants who were supposed to work on rebuilding the damaged buildings. These ‘consultants’ were paid very generously, but the area still has not been fully rebuilt. Italy, which is a dab hand at wasting public money at the best of times, becomes utterly expert at throwing away taxpayers’ money in the aftermath of natural disasters, it seems.
Reconstruction Never Happens
In its long wait for post earthquake reconstruction, L’Aquila is by no means alone. There are plenty of other areas of Italy which are still waiting to be reconstructed after earthquakes. Zones such as Irpinia which was struck by an earthquake in 1980 or the 2002 earthquake in Molise during which 27 children died after the school they were in collapsed on their heads. And the Molise earthquake registered 3.5 on the Richter scale, a mere tiddler in earthquake terms. During the recent, and ongoing, Modena area earthquakes, many, many tremors of 3.5 and over have been recorded.
Who knows when the Modena reconstruction will commence? And who knows how many of the new buildings will have genuine earthquake resistance certificates?
Italy never seems to learn. Funny country.
Photographs by Mario Fornasari from Ferrara, Italy