Italy’s worst quake in nearly 30 years strikes city of L’Aquila

At 3:30 a.m. a powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 6.3 on the Richter scale struck the city of L’Aquila in central Italy, 120 km northeast of Rome.

According to the Italian Red Cross at least 40 people have been killed, 400 injured and eight remain unaccounted for. The numbers of dead and injured are expected to grow. Tens of thousands of people have become homeless in the city which has a population of 70’000.

The Italian Red Cross rescue teams were on the scene of the disaster within an hour after the earthquake struck. It is presently scaling up personnel and equipment in the affected area to reinforce capacity for search and rescue, as well as meals and blankets for the survivors.

The Italian Red Cross is on full alert and active in health, first aid, logistics and humanitarian relief. It also established a field hospital to relieve the burden on local health facilities which are under an enormous strain due to the sudden upsurge in demand. Italian Red Cross has also quickly set up mobile kitchens with the capacity to provide 10,000 meals a day run by a team of with a team of 16 Italian Red Cross staff and 30 volunteers. Two soup kitchens providing 200-400 meals a day have been set up to respond to the needs of L’Aquila Hospital which is being evacuated.

Thirty six ambulances from the Italian Red Cross are on rotation to evacuate injured people from L’Aquila to the Hospitals in Tagliacozzo, Pescina and Avezzano and it is also evacuating an orphanage in San Gregorio and will ensure care is provided for all the children. Additionally, five psychological support teams from the Italian Red Cross are now operational on the ground.

Additional means and resources are ready to be sent, depending on needs, including 30 search and rescue dog units, five psychological support teams and three veterinary teams.

With up to 10,000 buildings in the city expected to be badly damaged if not destroyed, the Italian Red Cross foresees growing problems with shelter, warm clothes and food provisions for the survivors. “Once we have addressed the need to reinforce emergency health care in the region, the next major challenge, apart from urgent search and rescue, is to find a solution for the thousands of homeless survivors” according to Tommasso Della Longa, head of Communication for the Italian Red Cross who is on the spot.

Further mobilisation of resources is being organised. A national appeal calling for solidarity with the population hit by the earthquake is going to be issued on the Italian Red Cross website.

Working in close co-ordination with the Italian Civil Protection, the Italian Red Cross has activated its national operations centre, as well as four regional ones, bringing the considerable capacity of the organisation to effectively address the needs of the population.

In consultation with the Italian Red Cross the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is currently assessing which assistance can be best provided right now to supplement and support the efforts of the Italian Red Cross.

Since 1968 the International Federation and member National Societies have supported the Italian Red Cross three times after earthquakes in 1968, 1976 and in 1980. In 1980 some 3000 people lost their lives after a deadly quake hit the region of Naples. In 1992 a quake in Umbria claimed 13 lives and countless cultural treasures. The most recent deadly quake was in 2002 when 30 people died, including 27 pupils and their teacher, in the southern Italian town of San Giuliano di Puglia.

For more information, please contact:

In Budapest:

Margarita Plotnikova, Communication Manager, Europe Zone, tel: +36 1 888 4506

In Italy:

Tommasso Della Longa, Italian Red Cross, head of communications, tel: +393207979485 (English speaking)

Marcelo Guerra, head of international (French speaking), +393207979483

In Geneva:

Paul Conneally, IFRC Media Manager, Tel: +41(0)22.730.4669

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