Merkel visits Italian quake village

9th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

Merkel was visibly moved as she strolled past piles of rubble, all that remains of the village of Onna after a devastating earthquake hit the region in April.

Onna -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel toured a quake-shattered Italian village Wednesday to see at first hand the devastation caused by April's earthquake, shortly before a G8 summit in nearby L'Aquila.

Merkel was visibly moved as she strolled past piles of rubble, all that remains of the village of Onna, accompanied by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Onna bore the brunt of the 6.2 magnitude quake, losing 40 of its 280 inhabitants as dozens of buildings toppled to the ground. Merkel's government is providing funds to rebuild the village's centuries-old church.

Merkel was handed a bunch of yellow flowers by Civil Protection workers who formed a line as she and Berlusconi were given a tour, in bright sunshine.

Merkel's was the first of several visits that world leaders, including US President Barack Obama, are due to make to L'Aquila's devastated environs during the summit.

Berlusconi moved the meeting from the Sardinian island of La Maddalena to highlight the plight of the 70,000 people still homeless, many housed in roadside tented camps. The April 6 quake killed 300 people.

Berlusconi's government has pledged that all the former residents will be rehoused in solid wooden houses by mid-August.

"From August 15, all the residents will be re-housed here in 94 maisonettes just in front of their village, which was 90 percent destroyed," said Vittorio Cristofini, head of the rebuilding project.

"The village was so badly damaged that it will have to be all razed to the ground before rebuilding can begin," he told AFP.

Merkel has made Onna a symbol of reconciliation between Germany and the Abruzzo region.

It was there on June 11, 1944, that retreating Wehrmacht soldiers executed 17 civilians, including women and children, in reprisal for attacks by the local resistance.


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