Italian premier Mario Draghi has paid tribute to the victims of a 2016 earthquake that devastated entire towns in the centre of the country, where reconstruction efforts have picked up pace after five years of delays.
Mr Draghi laid a commemorative wreath at the monument to victims in Amatrice on the fifth anniversary of the disaster and then took part in a mass at a nearby football field attended by local residents and celebrated by the bishop of nearby Rieti.
“In the past it was slow, but now the situation is different,” Mr Draghi told a committee of residents. “Reconstruction work is proceeding faster. I’m here to bring you the confidence and commitment of the government.”
A 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck Amatrice and nearby towns at 3.36am on August 24 2016, the first of more than a dozen that rattled much of central Italy over the following months and left thousands of people homeless.
Of all the nearly 300 people killed in the quake, some 237 were buried under the rubble of Amatrice, a medieval hill town that is the birthplace of Italy’s famous Amatriciana pasta dish.
Government officials vowed to rebuild Amatrice’s crumbled historic centre and other nearby towns, but Italy’s notorious bureaucracy slowed the effort to a crawl.
Recently, though, the government-appointed commissioner for reconstruction announced that the project was speeding up amid a streamlined process to approve plans and funding.
In a June update on the status of the reconstruction, the commissioner’s office reported that 12,000 homes had been built and work was under way at 5,000 more sites.