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Renzo Piano to Lead Reconstruction Efforts Following Italian Earthquake

Acclaimed architect wants anti-seismic regulations strengthened amid plans to rehouse displaced residents in lightweight wooden homes.

The activities of the Italian Red Cross during the Central Italy earthquake.
The activities of the Italian Red Cross during the Central Italy earthquake.

Italy’s prime minister has asked the acclaimed architect Renzo Piano to play a leading role in reconstruction and disaster prevention following the earthquake that struck central Italy, killing at least 290 people.

Matteo Renzi launched a national plan for quake and risk prevention on Monday after meeting Piano in Genoa at the weekend to discuss housing strategies for survivors and rebuilding the medieval towns hardest hit by the 6.2-magnitude quake on 24 August.

“Reconstruction should be coordinated in the wisest and fastest way,” Renzi said in a statement on Monday. “It’s right to do it quickly but even better to be done well and above all with the involvement of the affected people.”

Ten people are still missing after the quake left the towns of Amatrice, Accumoli and Pescara del Tronto in ruins and displaced up to 3,000 people. Civil protection workers, police and firefighters sifting through the debris in search of victims have been shaken by more than 2,000 aftershocks in the days since the quake.

Firefighters recovered the body of a woman buried beneath Hotel Roma in Amatrice on Monday, but two bodies were still trapped under the hotel debris.

Piano said it was critical for Italy to strengthen laws on making structures earthquake resistant and ensure public and private buildings were safe.


“We have to act quickly, with the utmost urgency,” he said by telephone from Genoa. “Anti-seismic requirements must be inserted in the laws of the country to make our homes safe, just as it’s compulsory for a car to have brakes that work.”

Within the next six months the Italian government is promising to move 2,900 displaced residents from the 58 tent camps and other shelters where they are currently housed to lightweight wooden houses. In the second phase of the plan, reconstruction of the damaged central Italian towns would begin in six to eight months.

While calling for more to be done to reinforce anti-seismic regulations, Piano outlined a far more comprehensive proposal to protect Italy’s public buildings, homes and cultural sites over the next 50 years.

“We are speaking about the ridge of the Apennines, the backbone of Italy from north to south, an operation projected over 50 years and two generations,” he said. “We are talking about millions of buildings, it is not impossible if you work through generations.”

The 78-year-old architect, who was appointed an Italian senator for life in 2013, has worked with Unesco and also had experience in high-risk quake zones in Japan and California. He said it was possible to make buildings safe with a “subtle scientific” approach which he likened to modern medical diagnosis. However, he said he recognised that corruption was a perennial obstacle in Italy.

“It is not just corruption, there is bureaucracy and illegality,” Piano said. “Now there is a strong push against it and Italy is trying to do something about it. It is not impossible to overcome it, something new is coming.”

The government also plans to appoint former Emilia Romagna governor Vasco Errani as special commissioner to oversee post-quake reconstruction. He had a similar position in 2012 after two earthquakes in Emilia Romagna left 27 dead and thousands homeless.

Reconstruction of homes and businesses has been completed in 25 of the 60 stricken municipalities and the number of families on quake assistance has dropped from over 19,000 to 2,491, according to the Ansa news agency.




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