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Italy’s worst earthquake in nearly 30 years strikes city of L’Aquila

6 April 2009

Man walks through rubbleAlessandro Bianchi/ReutersIn the early hours of 6 April 2009, a powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 6.3 on the Richter scale struck the city of L'Aquila in central Italy, 120 km northeast of Rome.

According to the Italian Red Cross at least 90 people have been killed, 1,500 injured and eight remain unaccounted for. The numbers of dead and injured are expected to grow. Tens of thousands of people have become homeless in the city, which has a population of 70,000.

The Italian Red Cross rescue teams were on the scene of the disaster within an hour after the earthquake struck. It is presently scaling up personnel and equipment in the affected area to reinforce capacity for search and rescue, as well as meals and blankets for the survivors. The British Red Cross has donated £15,000 from its Disaster Fund to support the emergency response.

Italian Red Cross responds

The Italian Red Cross is responding with health, first aid, logistics and humanitarian relief. It also established a field hospital to relieve the burden on local health facilities, which are under an enormous strain. The Italian Red Cross has also set up mobile kitchens able to provide 10,000 meals a day. Two soup kitchens providing 200-400 meals a day have been set up to respond to the needs of L’Aquila hospital which is being evacuated.

Thirty-six ambulances from the Italian Red Cross are on rotation to evacuate injured people from L'Aquila to the hospitals in Tagliacozzo, Pescina and Avezzano and it is also evacuating an orphanage in San Gregorio and will ensure care is provided for all the children. Additionally, five psychological support teams from the Italian Red Cross are now operational on the ground.

With up to 10,000 buildings in the city expected to be badly damaged, if not destroyed, the Italian Red Cross foresees growing problems with shelter, warm clothes and food provisions for the survivors. “Once we have addressed the need to reinforce emergency healthcare in the region, the next major challenge, apart from urgent search and rescue, is to find a solution for the thousands of homeless survivors,” said Tommasso Della Longa, head of communication for the Italian Red Cross.

Co-ordinating emergency response

Working in close co-ordination with the Italian Civil Protection, the Italian Red Cross has activated its national operations centre, as well as four regional ones, to effectively address the needs of the population.

In consultation with the Italian Red Cross the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is currently assessing what assistance can be best provided right now to supplement and support the efforts of the Italian Red Cross.

Pete Garratt, British Red Cross relief operations manager, said: “The Italian Red Cross has significant resources in emergency response and is currently able to deal with the situation effectively. We are monitoring the situation and should the scale of need continue to grow, with request for international assistance, we are ready to respond.”

Find out about other current emergencies

A donation from our Disaster Fund has been made in response to this earthquake. Contributions to the Disaster Fund will not be used directly in response to this disaster, but will be used in response to other emergencies in the future.