Life after earthquakes…


Well I don’t know where to begin.

Two more earthquakes struck central Italy last week, the last one on the 30th October was much stronger than the first one that struck in August.  Thankfully nobody died directly as a result of that earthquake, but hundreds if not thousands of homes were shaken so much they’re ‘inagibile’ – uninhabitable, leaving thousands without homes. The majority are in the zone of Macerata where I live. The epicentres were only 13 and 20 miles away from Sarnano (my town). The last estimate I read was 30,000 people homeless. Hundreds of those are in Sarnano, sleeping in the sports centre and in their cars surrounding it, away from any buildings that could topple.

I’m very proud of how Sarnano is coping. Despite everything, they’re a strong and resilient lot. We have a massive sports complex just outside of the town centre which is now full of beds and where people can get food. It’s our emergency area now – the base for the fire brigade and the Red Cross and even our ‘comune’ (local government) who are coordinating the salvage efforts. Check out this article and video to see for yourselves (scroll down for pictures).

If I think of the number of people without homes, then it really is quite overwhelming but in fact, if you don’t look too closely, outside of the emergency area everything could seem like it was before. In the town centre, bars are open, the market still ran, the shops are open and life continues, though the conversations are somewhat different (“Is your house still standing then?” “Did you hear about x’s place?”). The ‘old town’ has been evacuated not because buildings have collapsed but because the chimneys were falling down and tiles were falling off, bouncing on the guttering and falling onto the streets below.

So to be honest, from an outsider’s perspective it might not seem the disaster that it actually is for our little town. It’s not really until you look closer that you see the extent of the damage and you become aware of other impacts. Driving along the streets, yes, houses are still upright but one in every 5 will have a wall leaning perilously towards the street, no longer attached to the other ones, or a corner of the building which is coming away, or a roof that’s caved in.

My home is one of those. Although still standing the walls are cracked all the way through so it looks like a road map. Walls are bulging and in one place, just sort of bent out of shape entirely. All the ceilings and walls seem to be coming apart from everything else. On a more superficial level, glass and ceramic tiles cover the floors and there’s barely a thing still on the walls. A lot of my art projects completed over the years have smashed. I don’t think the house is in danger of imminent collapse however, as long as there’s not another large tremor. But alas, there are tremors all day everyday and it seems like there will need to be at least one other large quake in order to reduce the stress built up on the fault line from what I understand from the people that know about these things.


My poor house…

The rest of my hamlet is badly damaged too. The roof caved in on the house opposite and it’s covered in serious cracks. Hopefully it can be reinforced but meanwhile, the owner is devastated – her granddad was born in that house. The house next to it has a corner that is balancing in place, no longer attached to the rest of the house. The other three houses in my building are uninhabitable too. Although my next door neighbours place is fine he doesn’t feel comfortable coming to visit his house (a holiday home) given that mine will fall onto his if it goes down. Another neighbour’s place is also uninhabitable with serious cracks running through it. There are 9 houses in my hamlet in total and six are currently uninhabitable.

I was in England when the last two quakes struck so in one sense, I’m thankful I didn’t have to go through the terror of the quake but equally sad that everyone else did.  The tremors never really stopped after the first quake in August, though they did calm down a lot. I always slept with shoes by my bed and a torch, just in case, with my usual cluttered house messy apart from a clear exit route. Even in the UK, my heart would miss a beat when large lorries would go past, rattling the house a bit. In fact, this ‘earthquake readiness’ is considered one of the factors that saved people’s lives – at the first sign of danger, you’re ready to get out but the constant ‘readiness’ takes its toll. Not wishing to sound too dramatic but people are literally broken-hearted; one Sarnanese woman died of a heart attack after enduring a night of constant tremors in her car outside the sports centre and that sadly wasn’t a one off.

But it’s not just people’s homes that have been impacted, or their spirits, there’s lots of other hidden issues that you’d never even think about. For instance, Italian’s often keep their elderly parents in their homes looked after by a carer. The carers are almost entirely foreign. Dozens of carers in Sarnano have gone back to their own country understandably but it’s left the town’s elderly high and dry. Homes for the elderly are all full to the brim.

The next step is for the structural engineers to come around and officially declare houses habitable or uninhabitable. Mine will be uninhabitable. Who knows whether it can be fixed or rather whether it’s worth spending the money to fix it? Some say that it’ll need to be knocked down; others think that it could be reinforced. Whatever the case, as it’s my primary residence the government should pay for the work but it’ll undoubtedly take years.

Meanwhile, I’ve been overwhelmed by the support of friends and family through all this and even people I barely know who have offered to help. The cat and I are now staying in a friend’s apartment in Ripatransone, a town not too far from the coast, still in Le Marche but further away from the danger zone. I’ve landed on my feet. The apartment is lovely and in a very pretty part of Le Marche that I’ve not really explored yet. I might be able to stay here for a while, though everything is still so up in the air. But it’s not my home and it’s heart-breaking to think I may never chill out on my terrace trying to spot wild boar or deer again or spend my evenings experimenting with what I can cook on my stufa.

So, in summary, it’s been horrible for everyone and continues to be a struggle but “ce la faremmo”, we’ll make it.


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25 thoughts on “Life after earthquakes…

  1. Oh Sue, I’m so sorry to hear your house and hamlet have been hit by the earthquakes this week – I’d hoped you’d been spared but at least you’re safe. And I hope you and your neighbours can put things back together quickly. Sending hugs, xxx

    • Thanks Liz… Much appreciated 🙂 The comune is beavering away and it sounds like powers that be are trying to cut down on bureaucracy (ha!) so perhaps it’ll all be sorted in good time. Hope all well up with you xxx

  2. So sorry to hear this sad news Sue .. a big hug to you. Send me a pm if there is anything i can do . Stay safe ..

    • Thanks Gina! Will do. Hoping you’re house escaped unscathed!!! Let me know when you’re back in the area – will have to catch up! x

  3. mpic

    “Ce la faremo” not “ce la faremmo”, the second one is congiuntivo 🙂
    We are ants on the back of an elephant, specially in this region. A “pity” that years ago in a lot of villages they decided to remove the obligation of building with antiseismic standars, houses built in last forty years are shitty also for this reason…

    • I was speaking in Sue Dialect and so ce la faremmo is technically correct. One day I’ll give you the rule book. I can’t believe they got rid of a rule to build to anti-seismic standards , that’s crazy!

      • mpic

        It was a test Sue, “ce la faremmo” is not congiuntivo but conditional: “ce la faremmo se credessimo di più in noi stessi”. “Ce la faremo” is a wish, in future tense. Failed 🙂

      • Yeah, I thought it was conditional but then, you’re Italian so I suspected you were probably the authority!

  4. So so sad. I pray for you all

  5. domenico pecorari

    Hi Sue, I’m so sorry to read of the earthquake damage to your place in Sarnano which, along with Norcia and Amandola, is one of my favourite places in the Monti Sibillini. I was in my home in Petritoli (a little town you may know of) on the early morning of the 24th August and it was very frightening. It really felt as though the 15th-century building was about to come crashing down around my ears or that the bell-tower, right next to my place, was going to collapse and crush my home, with me in it! I’m back in Alice Springs, Australia, so I’ve missed the latest round of quakes, but I’m told by my friends in Petritoli that they are nervous about going to sleep at night. I’m glad to read that you are with friends and safe. Do keep writing your blog as I enjoy reading what you have to say. Take care Domenico Pecorari

    Photo: My home in Petritoli, to the left of the bell-tower.


    • Hi Domenico. Thanks for your note. I’ve heard of Petritoli but I don’t think I’ve ever been. I’ll have to check it out. Yes, wasn’t it awful that earthquake? I think it was made worse because it was in the middle of the night. Yes, your neighbours scared to go to sleep at night echoes the feelings of my neighbours too sadly. I’ve been very lucky, my new place in Ripatransone is far away that I don’t feel any of the aftershocks thank goodness! The only remaining family in my hamlet are all sleeping together in a room at the bottom of the house (that seems worse for me – more stuff to fall on you?!?!?!) Anyway, I hope Alice Springs is tremor free and by the time you get back, hopefully things will have calmed down significantly! Glad you enjoy the blog… I love writing it and it’s always nice that someone likes reading it too! 🙂 I can’t see the photo on this view, I’ll try in another!

    • What a shame – the photo didn’t come through on the other view either!

  6. Mike Baddeley

    I’m so glad to hear you’re safe but sad to hear of the damage to your property and beautiful town. I hope things return to normal soon.

    • Hi Mike, Thanks for the note! Hoping it will too. I guess it’s still early days but hopefully there will be less rebuilding to do and more reinforcing which you’d hope would take less time but you never know!

  7. Jacqueline Laing

    well told Sue, hving just left neighbouring Amandola as my house is classed as unsafe, athough not collapsing I can add that most Marchgianis are in a state of shock. The look of dissbelief and fear is prevelant everywhere, however, they are determined not to give in and discuss rebuilding. The hospital in amandola is new deemed dangerous and is closedd the largest hotel Il Paradiso is also dangerous and closed as is the Historic cente. I felt sad and guilty about leaving, but had a safe place to go in the |UK My heart was left behind and am following the progress of events hourly from the safety of UK

    • Thanks Jackie! Yes I was so sorry to hear about your place too 😦 Everyone is so tightly strung aren’t they? The poor comune lot were on the verge of tears when I went into see them about my place. I really hope the hospital in Amandola makes a recovery. The money you fund-raised should help with that hopefully. And what a shame about Hotel Paradiso. Don’t feel guilty about leaving! Are you resident in Italy? There’s various things that you might be entitled to if you are eh? Let me know if you want a hand with anything and hope to see you soon!

  8. Alyson

    Sorry to hear this.Ripatransone and the surrounding areas are lovely.I lived in Acquaviva Picena for 23 years and still have a house there which is for daughter lives in San Benedetto. I am back in the UK at the moment so luckily missed the earthquakes, but my thoughts are always there with those involved

    • Hi Alyson, thanks for this. I can’t wait to explore the area a bit – it does look lovely from what I’ve seen so far. Rolling hills, with spectacular looking vineyards at the moment as the leave turn. I’ve not been to Acquaviva Picena – I’ll have to visit! I hope that wasn’t badly damaged in the quakes… San Benedetto is lovely, not far from me now. Good that you missed the earthquakes and hope your house is still alright… good luck with the sale. I’m hoping the property market wont be too badly impacted by all this!

  9. Joanna

    Thank you Sue, for telling us what life is like daily now for people and all the logistics and practicalities that don’t make the news after the first few days. Having been in Le Marche for the first quake in August, I can only imagine how terrifying the last few have been, getting closer and stronger, but fully appreciate how it becomes a constant fear in the back of your mind…waiting for the next one.
    We bought a small second home in Santa Vittoria just this year, but have already fallen in love with the area and its people and are so worried about our neighbours there, who welcomed us so warmly. Your blog gives us the best indication yet of the problems faced for this winter and longer term, and as painful as it must be to write, I hope you will be able to post further updates in due course. Take care and best wishes.

    • Hi Joanna. Thanks for your note. Santa Vittoria is lovely – good choice! I *think* it escaped relatively damage free? Or at least I’ve not heard anything about it being impacted but you’re not that far away at all from these quakes so I do hope you escaped damage free. That August one was awful because not only was it strong, it was in the dead of night and it felt like it would never stop eh?! But the force of the last two really did seem to scare people – they well up just talking about it. Glad you’re loving the area and the people – it really is a special place 🙂 Thanks again for the note!

  10. So good to get an insight into what it is like for people in at the coal face. Thank you for sharing what must be a scary, worrying time.

  11. Giovanna Sabin

    Great to have your comments Sue. We have almost certainly seen you around Sarnano. We have been there for 15 years and our house was declared inagibile after the 24th Aug. earthquake. Good luck for the winter ahead.

    • Thanks for the feedback Giovanna! Ooo have you? I probably stand out in Sarnano – the one that’s always looking a mess and wearing a hoodie! I’m so sorry to hear you’re house is inagibile too. What a nightmare this all is. I hope yours gets sorted as soon as possible too. Lots of love and if you do spot me in town we’ll have to go for a coffee! 🙂

      • Giovanna Sabin

        If and when you hear it is time to get estimates for restoration please let us know. We are waiting in the first instance until the tremors stop during which time David can have his hip sorted out in the UK. He needs a total hip replacement which will enable him to get out of the house quickly when necessary!. Good luck for the winter. Hopefully we can all be more positive in the Spring. We are going to miss the coffee and the Pizza at Da Marino. Our haunts for coffee are the. Terme and Bar Mariani. See you there in 2017!

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