After the first occurrence on 24 August, three more major earthquakes, together with a flurry of tremors, struck the central Italian regions in October. The last was the strongest Italy felt since Irpinia in 1980.
Despite the relentless efforts made by the rescue units, civil protection forces, volunteers, civil society organisations and local, regional and national authorities, the cataclysm crushed entire villages, killing 290 inhabitants, injuring 400 and displacing 100,000.
The survivors of the devastating earthquakes are now exposed to the harsh winter we are heading into and are at the mercy of unpredictable hydrogeological effects, such as floods and landslides, that could occur in the 130 square kilometres of affected area.
EU action must be quick and effective
In the wake of the destruction, serious economic and social hardships were triggered and Italy has already submitted an application for European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) assistance.
Created as a reaction to the severe floods in Central Europe in the summer of 2002, the EUSF was set up to respond to major natural disasters and channel European solidarity to disaster-stricken regions within Europe. It has been used 72 times so far, including for floods, forest fires, earthquakes, storms and drought, in 24 different European countries, mobilising over €3.8 billion.
We need to stop victims feeling abandoned between emergency interventions and the arrival of EUSF funds Salvatore Cicu
Now the Commission must undertake all necessary measures to analyse EUSF assistance requests promptly and to ensure a swift mobilisation of the fund. Advance payments must made available as soon as possible to respond to the most urgent demands.
“We need to stop victims feeling abandoned between emergency interventions and the arrival of EUSF funds. This is why I asked the European Commission to take into account the possibility of increasing the advance payments threshold from 10% to 15%, as well as shortening deadlines for the processing of applications from six to four weeks,” stated Salvatore Cicu, an Italian EPP Group MEP and Rapporteur on an assessment of the EU Solidarity Fund.
Combining EU programmes to help
Other EU instruments, such as the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIFs) or the Civil Protection Mechanism and Financial Instrument, may be used to strengthen preventive measures to address earthquakes and rehabilitation measures. The European Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) can also be used to sustain rural areas and agricultural activities that have been impacted by the earthquakes.
Creating synergies between all available EU instruments is of paramount importance, ensuring that resources are used effectively for reconstruction activities and all other necessary actions, in full cooperation with the Italian national and regional authorities.
“The EU must act quickly and effectively in order to guarantee decent living conditions to the Italians deprived of their homes,” concluded Salvatore Cicu MEP.