Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Our transmitter in Willow Creek is off air. We're working with the manufacturer on a solution. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Italian Quake Victims Question Who's To Blame For Buildings' Failure


The earthquake in central Italy has killed at least 290 people. It also toppled countless buildings, among them those that had been retrofitted to meet quake-resistant standards. Many Italians are calling for answers, as Christopher Livesay reports.

CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY, BYLINE: Pescara del Tronto used to be a charming little hamlet in central Italy. That was before a quake sent its medieval buildings toppling down the side of a mountain. Those who survived now find refuge in this tent camp off the highway. As they watch the dust settle on their town, some suspect corrupt builders and government officials bear part of the blame for its collapse. Anna Di Rado is a retiree who lost her house.

ANNA DI RADO: (Through interpreter) Now look, my dear. In Italy, at this point in time, we should be ashamed. There's a lot of good people here, but then there are those few crooks who are out to fill their pockets.

LIVESAY: She's not alone in her suspicions. Italian state prosecutors are investigating 115 buildings that collapsed. One was an elementary school - empty when the quake hit - that was retrofitted four years ago to withstand an earthquake. Another was a newly restored Church that fell on a neighboring home, killing a family of four in their sleep. The lead prosecutor says all of these instances, quote, "cannot be chalked up to fate. If the buildings were built like they are in Japan, they wouldn't have collapsed."

Rescuers are working to extract the few remaining bodies. Then, reconstruction can begin. Fabio Di Prospero is an art specialist in the national police force, the Carabinieri. He says rebuilding is part of being Italian.

FABIO DI PROSPERO: But in this land, we had many, many, many earthquakes in the last centuries, so we have many churches or buildings rebuilt.

LIVESAY: At least 293 artistic heritage sites have been badly damaged, according to the culture ministry, which has vowed to rebuild these towns as they were. But rebuilding raises new problems, given Italy's checkered past with construction and bribery. After the earthquake, Italy's top anti-corruption magistrate was quick to warn that corruption and even mafia infiltration were a serious risk in the rebuilding process. But some question the wisdom behind rebuilding at all. Patrizia Rachella is visiting her collapsed home for the first time since she escaped the quake.

PATRIZIA RACHELLA: (Speaking Italian).

LIVESAY: "Look what's happened," she says. "This town is dead. Why would anyone ever want to come back?" But not everyone agrees. In the worst-hit town of Amatrice, two children play soccer in a tent village. Their parents, Roberto Sipartenza Monica Serrafini, sit at a picnic table.

ROBERTO SIPARTENZA: (Speaking Italian).

LIVESAY: They say their house is destroyed, after they moved in only six months ago. When they felt the quake at night, they hugged each other goodbye. But they're not ready to leave.

MONICA SERRAFINI: (Through interpreter) At this point, we'll try to help each other - the whole community - to stay united. That's the most beautiful thing - to move forward.

LIVESAY: No matter what, her husband adds, we don't want to flee. For NPR News, I'm Christopher Livesay in Ascoli Piceno, Italy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Christopher Livesay