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Italy seeks help to restore quake-hit monuments

05/25/2009 10:38 PM | By Samir Salama, Associate Editor

Abu Dhabi: Italy appealed for UAE and international assistance to restore historic monuments damaged by an earthquake that struck central Italy on April 6.

The appeal was made by the Italian ambassador to the UAE, Paolo Dionisi, ahead of his country's National Day on June 2.

Expressing gratitude to all those who expressed solidarity with Italy in its ordeal, Dionisi told Gulf News: "We will welcome further expression of solidarity to restore historic monuments, rebuild houses for around 60,000 people who were left homeless by the 6.3-magnitude earthquake which struck the medieval city of L'Aquila and several other towns in central Italy, reducing 50 per cent of buildings in the area to piles of rubble."

Almost 300 people died when the quake hit the central Italian region of Abruzzo, devastating L'Aquila, the region's capital, as well as surrounding villages and towns.

The Italian ambassador said that his country's embassy in the UAE will mark the Festa della Republica or the national day by a simple event in a symbolic gesture that would help keep attention focused on the quake-hit region.

"The embassy would not accept flowers from public and private institutions on the occasion and would otherwise seek that money be sent to quake-stricken people in Italy. These institutions can contact the embassy to get the bank accounts allocated for this purpose."

Dionisi said the UAE and other countries may adopt any of the many Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance landmarks which were damaged by the powerful earthquake.

"A monument may be named after the country or party which contributes to restoring it."

He welcomed initiatives by public and private institutions in the UAE and abroad stressing that Italy was mainly seeking funding for work to restore treasures from the damaged sites. Among the broken churches in L'Aquila is the 13th-century basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio, which Dionisi described as the symbol of the city. A huge chunk of the roof covering the transept, or cross-section, of the basilica caved in.

The medieval Anime Sante Church, an important house of worship for locals, lost its dome.

The bell tower of the 16th-century San Bernardino church collapsed, and the church's dome also sustained damage. And the cupola of the Baroque Sant' Agostino church fell in.

The city's ancient wall also crumbled in parts, and one of the doors to the city partially collapsed. The ambassador said his country was also seeking assistance in rebuilding houses to accommodate as many as 20,000 homeless people by September.

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