Reconstruction work starts on destroyed Italian church

Reconstruction work funded by the German government has started on a 13th century church in Onna, a village in the central Italian region of Abruzzo that was destroyed by an earthquake four years ago.

The 6.3-magnitude quake that hit the medieval town of L'Aquila and its surroundings on April 6, 2009, killed 309 people and left nearly 70,000 homeless. In Onna, 41 of 280 inhabitants were killed.

Italy's new culture minister, Massimo Bray, and Germany's public works minister, Peter Ramsauer, travelled to the village for the inauguration of the rebuilding works.

The German embassy in Rome said on Saturday that Berlin pledged 3.5 million euros for Onna's church, where occupying German troops shot dead 17 civilians as a reprisal for partisan activities during World War II.

"On June 11, 1944, Germans inflicted on Onna unspeakable sufferings. With the sustainable reconstruction of the Church of Saint Peter Apostle we want to offer a proof of reconciliation and friendship between our two countries," Ramsauer said.

Il Centro, a local newspaper, wrote: "Everything that has been done in Onna in the last four years is due to the solidarity from the German Federal Republic," noting that reconstruction work should have started in 2010 but was blocked by "Italian bureaucracy".

Locals have repeatedly complained about slow progress on rebuilding. Work on the historic centre of L'Aquila started in recent weeks, and Italy's former regional aid minister, Fabrizio Barca, has told the DPA news agency that it would take "10-12 years" to be completed.

Barca quit office last week, as a new government was appointed. In his last report to parliament, he said that there were still more than 22,000 displaced people in the L'Aquila region and that 10 billion euros would be needed to fund the reconstruction.

-AAP

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