Italy: citizens provide news and reflections on the earthquake in L'Aquila

On Monday April 6th, at 3:32am local time (01:32 GMT), L'Aquila, capital city of the central Abruzzo region, 60 miles northeast of Rome, was stricken by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake [en]. Even if the country is not new to such tragedies, this is Italy's worst earthquake in three decades. The latest figures include more than 250 people dead, 1,000 people injured (100 of them seriously), and over 25,000 people left without homes. Overall 26 towns and villages have been hit [it], and some virtually destroyed. The trembling was felt all over central Italy, including Rome, where it was even captured on film by the TV show “Big Brother” 24/7 cameras [it].

Rude awakening

The first pictures appeared immediately on Flickr and many more were uploaded during the day.

Photo by healinglight on Flickr

Similarly, the first news was transmitted by local Twitter users (particularly with hashtags #italy and #terremoto) and quickly spread throughout the world, thanks to services such as Breaking Tweets [en] – even before the satellite news channels broadcasts.

Twitter user danybus1

[Awaken by the earthquake, look up immediately
info on twitter (and I find them)]

And in the early morning hours more news and comments began to pour in on Facebook. On the group “Terremoto in Abruzzo” [it] (Earthquake in Abruzzo) Chiara urges people “not not leave them alone” and writes:

l'Aquila distrutta… speravo fosse un sogno ed invece è tutta realtà… non ci posso ancora credere… mi si stringe il cuore… ma l'Aquila ritornerà ad essere bella come prima ed a emozionarci ancora.. Sono vicina a tutti…

“l'Aquila destroyed… i hoped it was just a dream but it is all true… i cannot believe it… i am heartbroken. but l'Aquila will come back to be beautiful again as before and we will be filled again… I am close to everybody there”

Many ready to help right away

On the same “Terremoto in Abruzzo” group, someone from Messina, a city in Sicily, says he's ready to hit the road to go there and help, just like many others:

vorrei partire come volontario x dare un aiuto anche io.. qualcuno che è della provincia di messina sa dirmi come fare?? chi contattare? fatemi sapere… grazie

i would like to be a volunteer to help there… is there anybody in the messina province that can tell me how to do it?? who to contact? please let me know… thanks

On the first day alone, on Facebook there were about 500 different groups, with appeals for solidarity and action – like this one from Daniela in Reggio Emilia:

in questo drammatico momento di immenso dolore, mi rendo disponibile ad ospitare una famiglia presso la mia casa, offrendo loro un alloggio confortevole, e tutto il mio sostegno morale.

in this dramatic moment of immense pain, i am ready to host a family in my house, offering them a comfortable place, and all my moral support.

Also Alessandra has in her heart the many homeless people and writes:

Facciamo un gruppo in cui le persone che hanno più di una casa si offrono di mettere a disposizione un'abitazione per gli sfollati del terremoto. Io sono disponibile.

Let's create a group where people who have more than one house can make that house available for the earthquake refugees. I am ready to do it. HOW CAN WE DO THIS?

Citizen media help to cope with tragedy

Daylight brings into sharp focus the magnitude of the tragedy and the web is the preferred place to disseminate information worldwide in a split second. On YouTube, Mastrostyle uploads a slideshow with several moving photos. Also Lukalove creates another poignant slideshow using the online software Several people ready with video- or cell-cameras descend into the wreckage to talk with the victims and people involved in the rescue efforts.

Here is a video showing a girl just extracted from the rubble being taken in an ambulance. While the following video includes some interviews [it] with people displaced in a park in L'Aquila:

Criticism of mainstream media coverage

The event seems to make everybody very tense and sensitive. Many cannot even tolerate small mistakes from major news outlets online. The pensierispettinati blog [it] noticed that the photo gallery from L'Aquila published by the daily Corriere della Sera website includes one photo that doesn't belong to this tragedy: it's a picture of the May 2008 earthquake in Sechuan, China. They removed the offending picture, only to inadvertently post, a short time later, another picture related to rescue efforts in an earthquake in Turkey.

Several bloggers criticized [It] another major newspaper website, for somehow exploiting the tragic event, boosting their advertisements and banners among its reports.

An avoidable tragedy?

Many netizens are also claiming that the earthquake was somehow expected: being an area at risk, the Abruzzo region was monitored closely. In fact, only a week earlier, using his own invention of gas radon measurements, Giampaolo Giuliani, a scientist related to the National Nuclear Physics Institute, had even predicted a very strong earthquake in a nearby city and alerted local officials about his findings. But the Head of the Civil Protection Agency, Bertolaso, immediately accused him of alarmism, threatening to sue him if he kept talking about it – so Giuliani kept his mouth shut.

The story is still very much alive in the blogosphere. Enzo Giarrittiello, on his blog La voce di Kayfa writes [it]:

Ora che purtroppo le sue previsioni si sono avverate, seppure con una settimana di ritardo rispetto a quanto aveva inizialmente ipotizzato, non sarebbe il caso di stanziare fondi per favorire la ricerca di Giuliani anziché mandarlo in prigione? Dando per scontato che le sue teorie sono pure illazioni, senza nemmeno cercare di capire i principi su cui si fondano, non ci si comporta in maniera oscurantista assumendo lo stesso atteggiamento dei censori medievali?

Now that unfortunately his predictions came true, even with a week of delay, wouldn't it be wiser to fund Giuliani's research rather than threatening to put him in jail? Even if his theories should turn out to be purely false, if we don't even try to understand the principles on which they are based, aren't we behaving like medieval censors?

On Facebook, many groups were launched in solidarity with this researcher, while in a few hours more than 100 comments were posted on a related story on [it], including one comment referring to a 2005 online forum detailing the method utilized by Giuliani [it] to forecast earthquake and his international operative connections.

On the other hand, the official scientific community refuted the validity of his predictions, including an interview with the director of the National Nuclear Physics Institute, where he states: “Giuliani doesn't work for my Institute and on this issue we need to be very careful when we say something publicly.”

What's next?

Unfortunately it seems inevitable to have controversial issues overshadowing the actual tragedy in such circumstances. Several Italian media sources and netizens are already debating the reconstruction plan and funding, with an overall cost estimated at about 1.2 billion euros. However, the situation on the ground is still far from over.

Many fear the death toll will rise even more – the latest figure is at 260. Rescue workers are working non-stop looking for survivors: a 98-year-old grandmother was found alive Tuesday after being buried for 30 hours. On the same night temperatures fell to 39 degrees in L'Aquila, dipping to near freezing at higher altitudes. And the area has been rattled by more than 200 tremors, some of them as higher as 5.3 magnitude.

Here more details [it] about donations and other assistance options.


This post has been co-authored by Stefano Ignone, with further contributions by Maria Grazia Pozzi and Tamara Nigi.


  • Hold on guys, you have all supports from Madagascar.

  • ros

    Per la prima volta, ho come l’impressione che la storia si sia svolta altrove che nella real life. I media mainstream mi sono sembrati incapaci di raccontare e – forse – anche di trasmettere un’emozione. Hanno cercato spasmodicamente una notizia eclatante – più eclatante di un terremoto? si certo, magari il rantolo di un bambino morente sotto le pietre, un’anziana donna da salvare all’ultimo secondo – una corsa all’ospedale. Ma ci sono luoghi e situazioni che mal si prestano a questo genere di storie. Il terremoto per chi lo ha vissuto congela il tempo e la storia in un attimo senza fine, realizza un dramma inconcepibile, innaturale per la sua portata, insopportabile per la sua irrazionalità. Per la prima volta mi è capitato di pensare che la televisione come i giornali online non avessero colto nulla, non avessero avuto la notizia. Abituati a cavalcare l’orrore dei nostri tempi – dal terrorismo alle stragi di bambini nelle scuole – anche la percezione mi è sembrata un pò narcotizzata. Mentre forse sui social network, sui mille rivoli della socialità online, la solidarietà è riuscita ad organizzarsi trasmettendo la concretezza del fare piuttosto che la retorica del dramma.

  • […] via Twitter. Twitter user, @danybus1, tweeted about waking up to the earthquake. Much thanks to Global Voices bloggers for aggregating such great responses. The following tweet reads (again, thanks Global […]

  • It’s so typical of the media and yet so unfortunate that the media decides to put the spot on this region only when there is a tragedy…. The camera shy region of Abruzzo has always had a challenge with competing with the likes of Rome, Venice etc… yet it is recognized for so many things and referred to Italy’s is garden and Europe’s Green Zone. It is so rich in nature and has so much to offer

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