Italian Hams Respond after Earthquake
An earthquake that registered between 5.8 and 6.3 magnitude struck the town of L'Aquila -- the capital of Italy's Abruzzo region, about 65 miles northeast of Rome -- early on the morning of April 6. News reports say the quake has killed more than 250 people, with at least 50,000 left homeless. Cluster spots reported that two HF frequencies -- 7045 and 3640 kHz -- were being used for emergency communications. Local hams also reported that various VHF frequencies were also being used.
According to IARU Region 1 Emergency Communications Coordinator Greg Mossop, G0DUB, the 7045 kHz frequency is being used to link local rescue and coordination centers with Protezione Civile in Rome. "Cell phone capacity in the area is being increased," he said, "and a second wave of volunteers and workers are being prepared to go to the area to take over from the first responders." He asked that 7045 kHz be kept clear as the Net remains active and stated that "it is now more important [to keep the frequency clear now] that a formal Net seems to exist."
Alberto Barbera, IK1YLO, of Ponderano (near Milan), told the ARRL hams are operating in VHF and UHF locally "because the area involved is not that large. About 30 villages around L'Aquila are involved. Our Dipartimento Protezione Civile does not need additional help at this moment; perhaps it will be necessary in a second step, we will see."
Fabrizio Villanova, IK6GTF, of Pescara (about a 90 minute drive from L'Aquila), said that several hams from his town and from Chieti are providing communications support after the quake. "We are using Pescara's repeaters to maintain contacts with hams in L'Aquila and to coordinate the activity of Pescara/Chieti's hams," he told the ARRL. "We operate from an institutional building especially equipped for emergencies where, joined with the police, fire department, Red Cross and other public services, all committed to provide aid. Our national emergency service is working in a very good manner and all activities seem to proceed well."
Rino Odoardi, IZ6BMP, of Alanno Stazione (near Pescara), told the ARRL that he and other hams form the Pescara section of the Associazione Radioamatori Italiani (ARI) "are in L'Aquila, involved in Civil Defense activities with officials in L'Aquila. The earth is still shaking still now -- I hope it will finish soon!"
The death toll reached 260 people, including 16 children, after rescuers pulled more bodies from the rubble in the days after the earthquake. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said in total 28,000 had lost their homes, with 17,000 now living in tents and the rest in free hotel rooms or staying with family. Aftershocks from Italy's worst quake in three decades lasted until April 8 in mountainous Abruzzo and were felt in Rome. According to Reuters News, Berlusconi vowed to build "a whole new town near L'Aquila."
On Wednesday, April 8, Pope Benedict XVI said he would visit the L'Aquila area as soon as possible. The pope praised the relief operations as an example of how solidarity can help overcome "even the most painful trials." The Vatican said the Pope would make the trip after Easter Sunday and that he does not want to interfere with relief operations in the area.