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Italy remembers L'Aquila earthquake, 11 years on

L'Aquila beams blue light into sky to mark 11th anniversary of deadly earthquake.

Italian president Sergio Mattarella has sent a message of "renewed feelings of closeness and solidarity to all in L'Aquila, to those in neighbouring towns and villages who have shared in both those tragic moments and the worries of the recovery", reports Italian news agency ANSA.

President Mattarella was speaking on the 11th anniversary of the 6.3-magnitude earthquake that struck the central Italian city of L'Aquila in the early hours of 6 April 2009, killing 309 people, leaving 70,000 homeless and devastating more than 50 villages in the Abruzzo region.

On each anniversary over the last decade, residents have gathered together for a torchlit procession around the streets of L'Aquila but - due to the Covid-19 lockdown - the annual ceremony is not possible this year.

Last night, 5 April, a huge blue beam of light was projected into the sky from the central Piazza Duomo, and the church bells rang out 309 times, once for each victim left buried under the rubble.

L'Aquila mayor Pierluigi Biondi, said that "11 years have passed since the longest and most painful night of our lives."

President Mattarella said that, 11 years on, the reconstruction of L'Aquila remains a "priority and an imperative commitment" for Italy, and that citizens are entitled to see the completion of construction sites, and have the right to "the complete and free return of community life, to the full rebirth of their city."

Mattarella said the memory of the night of 6 April 2009 is "indelibly impressed in the minds and hearts of the citizens of L'Aquila and of all Italians", describing a "terrible earthquake" that brought "death and devastation, threw numerous families into suffering and at times despair, rendered homes, buildings and roads inaccessible, forcing a highly demanding journey, first of survival, then of reconstruction."

The president said that now, with the Coronavirus, "a national and global emergency has overlapped", affecting the ongoing reconstruction work "which has already produced important results but which still requires dedication, tenacity and work."

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