Connect to share and comment

In L'Aquila, little enthusiasm for G8 talks

Fears that once G8 summit concludes, site of earthquake will be left in a void.

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel tours the ruined city of Onna near L'Aquila in central Italy, July 8, 2009. Merkel will attend the G8 summit from July 8-10. (Tony Gentile/Reuters)

L’AQUILA, Italy — A new arrival in any of the tent villages that pepper the landscape surrounding this earthquake-stricken city quickly attracts a small crowd.

Most of the estimated 60,000 area residents left homeless by the April 6 earthquake are still camping outdoors more than three months later, as the Group of Eight Summit begins here. After an initial flurry of interest from aid groups and media, the residents are mostly left alone. The days blend together, many say.

"You’re staying near here?" 34-year-old Tiziana Alfonsi asks me after several minutes of talking about life in a tent. “Are you staying in an apartment?”

Yes, an apartment.

“I’d be too scared to stay inside,” she says, shaking her head. She’s been living in a small tent enclave just outside the crumbling apartment building where she lived up until the earthquake. When she needs something from inside she timidly sneaks back in but gets out as quickly as possible. “Anyone who went through what we went through would be scared to sleep with a roof above their head.”

But the apartment I'm staying in survived the earthquake. It still seems to be in pretty good shape.

“Ours was, too,” she replies. “It survived every earthquake up until the big one.”

Alfonsi, like thousands of other people in the area, has little choice but to be philosophical about her situation. At least half a dozen significant aftershocks have shook the area since April, and local residents still sleeping indoors have taken to leaving the doors unlocked to make it easier to flee. Some small business owners have re-opened on small tables set up in front of the rubble of their former workplaces. People shrug when asked about the money lost when their homes or businesses collapsed in a dusty heap.

While local residents worry about rebuilding their cities, homes and businesses, the G8 summit gathers leaders of the world's industrialized countries nearby to worry about the global economy. Forty heads of state traveled to L’Aquila for three days of meetings beginning July 8. Security helicopters have been buzzing around the skies above the city for days, and the highways leading to the city show a highly visible police presence.