Chch can learn from quake-hit Italian city

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 09:48 01/10/2012

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Christchurch's earthquake photographers, BeckerFraserPhotos, have documented disaster recovery efforts in L'Aquila during a recent visit to Italy.

Christchurch could learn a lesson or two from earthquake-hit L'Aquila, Moira Fraser says.

The librarian and her photographer husband, Ross Becker, have been documenting Christchurch's disaster recovery and last month visited the historic city about 100 kilometres from Rome.

L'Aquila was ravaged by a magnitude-6.3 quake in April 2009, which killed more than 300 people. It was the city's worst quake since more than 6000 died in 1786.

Fraser said while Christchurch was often compared to Japan because the two suffered devastating earthquakes weeks apart, the Italian city was a better example.

'The difference you have is you're talking about a historic town full of historic buildings versus a relatively new place,' she said.

L'Aquila was founded in 1254 and about 80 per cent of the city's buildings were heritage-protected.

Most had been made safe, but few had been repaired or demolished, Fraser said.

About 65,000 people were left homeless and the cost to repair and rebuild was estimated at [Euro]20 billion to [Euro]30b.

Many buildings were not insured.

Fraser said she was 'gobsmacked' at how many buildings were still standing compared with Christchurch.

'As we've digested it and talked to people, it seemed to us actually that these are two cities that have got very different histories and have taken very different paths around the rebuild.'

Christchurch could learn from L'Aquila's 18-month head start, she said.

Fences erected around buildings included information about the repair work and photographs of the work being performed.

'Every building had information about what was happening inside it as well as data about who was responsible for the repair, how they were going with raising the money and how far the restoration was,' Fraser said.

'That was a really neat idea for making [progress] more visible to people.'

Some buildings, especially churches, had not been repaired but were made safe for use. "You make it safe, then you pause and raise money. As part of your raising money, you need to have people seeing it.'

An example was a church built as a memorial to the thousands who died in an 18th-century quake which lost its dome.

'They made it almost like a chapel. They put a protective wall in and opened up [the] front so people could go in - and people did go in.

'There's Christchurch's attitude, which is demolish anything that's unsafe, and L'Aquila's, which is keep everything.

"They seem like the extremes and surely a more appropriate path is somewhere in the middle.'

Similarities between the two cities included a central- city red zone, known to the Italians as the 'zona rossa'.

Fraser said many residential apartment buildings in L'Aquila were damaged and residents had been moved into 'satellite' communities no further from the city than Rolleston to Christchurch. The first rebuilt homes opened by September 2009, she said, with some displaced residents put up in hotels until recently.

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'The hotel we were staying at told us they had people up until three months ago living there that were from the [damaged] apartment buildings in the town,' Fraser said.

The city had no Christchurch-style recovery 'blueprint' but set itself the lofty goal of becoming the European Capital of Culture in 2019. 'They were a very cultured city - a university, two symphony orchestras, many theatres, ballets and operas - so they're saying, 'We want to be that kind of city again',' she said.

- The Press

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