Breaking point nears for Italy's quake survivors

2017-01-19 21:17
This photo taken from a video shows show piles of snow and rubble cascading down the stairway into the foyer of the hotel Rigopiano in Farindola, Italu. (AP)

This photo taken from a video shows show piles of snow and rubble cascading down the stairway into the foyer of the hotel Rigopiano in Farindola, Italu. (AP)

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Montereale - For Italian mother Tamara Ottaviani, the latest earthquakes to pound her mountain village might just have been the final straw.

After a sleepless night in a snow-covered tent, the 41-year-old told AFP Thursday she was starting to think it could be time to start planning a new life, away from Italy's seismically vulnerable heart.

"I didn't sleep, I fell on the snow when we were running out of the house when the quake hit, and hurt myself," Ottaviani told AFP after her night under canvas with her fireman husband and three children, aged five, nine and 13.

"I don't know what we'll do. It might be time to leave. Everything we have is here but we can't stand any more quakes."

Still in her pyjamas, Ottaviani's daughter, Gioia, was tearful as she recounted what the latest series of major shocks - four in four hours on Wednesday - had been like for a nine-year-old.

"All the trees were dancing, I was very scared," she said.

Even if the family decides to stay, she fears others will go.

"I saved my doll, she sleeps with me here. Some of my school friends are here too but they are leaving soon. I don't know who I'll play with after that."

Around 160 people spent the night in a civil protection agency tent that was first erected on Montereale's five-a-side football field after an August earthquake centred on nearby Amatrice which left nearly 300 people dead.

Freezing bathroom trips

As coffee and cake was handed out to the early risers, fresh beds were being brought in to accommodate others trapped in their homes overnight.

Around Montereale there are 32 isolated hamlets, most of them unreachable on roads blocked by two metres of snow.

The snow continued to fall intermittently Thursday as teenagers inside the tent lounged on camp beds playing cards.

Many of the elderly were tucked up under mounds of blankets. A frequent complaint was about the difficulty of getting to the bathroom in the freezing dead of night - the toilets are located outside the tent.

"You can't sleep in peace, the little children were crying but what can you do, it is an emergency," said Carmine Cresciotti.

"Yesterday I had to walk on all fours to get to my house to feed my pets and I will have to do it again today. I can't abandon them," added the 74-year-old, who has 11 cats and a dog.

Sergio Pantaleo, 64, said some villagers may have survived because they were out shovelling snow when the quake struck.

A mountain of snow

"We slept here before after the last quakes, and hoped not to return. At least the children are okay, they see it as a game."

Sergio's brother Mario, 73, has lived with earthquakes all his life.

"I was seven when a big quake hit here in 1950, I remember it well.

"My Dad saved me, the roof fell in on my bed. But this is worse because of the snow."

Domenico Trocchi could not remember anything like it, even at the age of 96.

"There were big avalanches, snow falling that could kill you if it hit you," he said.

Romanian Ileana Pirvu, 53, who looks after Trocchi, said she had not slept a wink.

"I was out digging a path through the snow when the first quake hit," she said.

"I looked up at the mountain of snow on either side of me, towering above me, and I thought how will I escape alive?

"Here people were sleeping but every time I closed my eyes I saw the mountain of snow, something that will stay with me all my life."

In contrast, Federico Giovanelli, 22, was in cheery mood in his orange ski hat and tracksuit.

"The beds are too short for me, but what can you do? I'm on the night shift soon and don't know what it will be like working the night and trying to sleep here in the day.

"But we'll make do."

Read more on:    italy  |  earthquakes

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