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In L'Aquila, little enthusiasm for G8 talks

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

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi decided to move the summit to L’Aquila just after the deadly tremor, both to call attention to the city’s plight and to redirect the tens of millions of euros needed to prepare any site for a meeting on the scale of the G8 to an area badly in need of it.

But few in the area seem to be enthusiastic about the presence of the talks. The investments yielded a new one-runway airport, an upgrade to the local hospital, and temporary jobs for a few hundred locals working on low-end summit tasks, like directing traffic in parking lots or driving shuttle buses. But most comments range from those who say that the summit has had little impact on their day-to-day lives to an apparent majority that criticizes the spending on buildings and roads that will serve little purpose once the talks conclude.

“They keep talking about repairing housing or building new housing but nothing has been done,” said Oscar Rossi, 54, who lives in a rustic lean-to standing adjacent to the closed-down auto repair shop where he worked before the earthquake. “In the meantime, they build huge new temporary structures that will be gone a few days from now. They made a road to an area where nobody will ever go unless they want to see the new parking lot next to the land where a temporary building used to be.”

The biggest concern voiced by residents interviewed is that after the summit concludes they will be left in a void. The economy of the area is a shambles, and the once-stunning historical center of the medieval city is completely closed off, meaning even residents cannot return without an escort from the civil defense force that patrols damaged areas. Evidence of the earthquake in the form of collapsed buildings, crushed shells of automobiles, or wide cracks traced along building walls is hard to avoid, but, so far, most reconstruction plans have remained on the drawing boards for a lack of funds and manpower.

“People continue to talk about L’Aquila because of the G8,” says Gina Tenzi, a 63-year-old office clerk who has lived her whole life in L’Aquila. Her home survived the earthquake but she worries about the others, especially once the mountain air turns cold in a few weeks. “The attention from the G8 hasn’t helped much yet, but I worry that once the talks are over that even that will end and we’ll just be forgotten.”

Read more about L'Aquila:

Italians rush to help L'Aquila after earthquake

Emotional aftershocks in Italy