World

Why didn't we learn from 2009 quake?

Even as the death toll of Italy's worst earthquake in recent years soared above 240, there were brief glimpses of hope as rescuers dug out survivors 17 hours after the disaster, including a 10-year-old girl.

The shell-shocked girl was pulled alive from the dusty ruins after being found buried among piles of brick and glass in Pescara del Tronto, one of three towns in central Italy demolished by Wednesday's massive quake.

Shouts of "she's alive" echoed through the village when firefighters discovered the girl, before she was sent to a hospital, reported the New York Daily News.

As rescuers sifted through collapsed masonry in the search for survivors, questions mounted as to why there had been so many deaths so soon after the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake, which had exposed Italy's vulnerability to earthquakes.

EMERGENCY MEETING

Yesterday, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi chaired an emergency Cabinet meeting.

"The objective is to rebuild and start again," he said, vowing that lessons would be learnt from L'Aquila, which left 300 people dead.

After L'Aquila, almost one billion euros (S$1.5 billion) was made available for upgrading buildings in seismically-vulnerable areas.

But the take-up of grants has been low, largely because of the cumbersome application process, say critics.

Meanwhile, in Amatrice, one of the worst-affected villages, there are already more than 200 deaths, according to its mayor, Mr Sergio Pirozzi, reported AFP.

Amatrice had been packed with visitors when the quake struck.

The Red Cross has begun shipping in food and water supplies.

Among those who picked up provisions were Ms Maria Atrimala, 48, and her 15-year-old daughter. "We escaped by pure luck, the stairs of the house held and we ran blindly in the dark and dust," she said.

Hundreds of people spent the night sleeping in their cars, in hastily assembled tents or as guests of families in less-affected nearby areas.

Search for survivors continues as Italy quake death toll passes 240. But critics are asking:

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