The Catholic Agency for Justice, Peace and Development

Caritas helps with earthquake relief in Rieti, Italy

A strong earthquake struck central Italy early on 24 August, causing severe destruction to buildings and leaving at least 250 dead. The magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck around the Rieti region. The worst hit towns were Amatrice and Accumoli, with the epicentre in Norcia.

“The situation is terrible,” said Bishop Giovanni D’Ercole of Ascoli Piceno, who arrived a few minutes after the first quake in the town of Pescara del Tronto. “As dawn broke, I could see the area had been destroyed.”

“We are already working with Caritas to get the right aid to the people,” he said.

Pope Francis addressed pilgrims in St Peter’s Square in Rome hours after the quake. “I cannot fail to express my heartfelt sorrow and spiritual closeness to all those present in the zones afflicted,” he said. “I want to assure all the people of Accumuli, Amatrice, the Diocese of Rieti, Ascoli Piceno, and all the people of Lazio, Umbria, and Le Marche, of the prayers and close solidarity of the entire Church”.

Andrea Piscopo of Caritas Marche said, “Relief efforts in Arquata and Pescara del Tronto continued throughout the night. We have spent the whole day with the rescue workers and the survivors. Thanks to local Church, youth and Caritas, it has been possible to provide food to them. It’s hard to say what the concrete needs will be until the situation stabilises.”

The Italian Catholic Church has immediately made available €1 million (NZ $1.5 million) in response to the earthquake and is launching a nationwide parish appeal to support Caritas Italy relief efforts. “We are gathered in prayer with those caught in this tragic event,” said the Italian bishops in a statement, inviting all to help alleviate the difficult conditions people in the affected areas will face in the coming days, weeks and months.

Caritas volunteers in Rieti have already started to deliver food and basic necessities and Caritas is organising further support, while the Italian Civil Protection are looking for survivors under the rubble.

In 2015, Caritas Rieti helped train migrants and refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Congo, Syria, Senegal, Somalia, Rwanda, Mali and Ghana to work with the Italian Civil Protection in emergency response.

“Caritas and parish volunteers, priests and bishops are concretely helping with the delivery of aid,” said Caritas Italy’s Paolo Beccegato. “We’re in constant communication with them to organise relief efforts on the ground.”

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Tutu ana te puehu - Stirring up the dust