Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi paid tribute to the victims of an earthquake that devastated entire cities five years ago
Nearly 300 people were killed when a magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck central Italy in the early hours of August 24, 2016.
It was the first of a dozen earthquakes that hit the region over the following months and left thousands homeless.
No less than 237 people were buried under the rubble in Amatrice, a medieval hilltop town that is the birthplace of the famous Italian pasta dish Amatriciana. 51 other people were killed in the neighboring municipality of Arquata and 11 others in Accumoli.
On Tuesday, Draghi laid a commemorative wreath at the monument to the victims of Don Minozzi Park in Amatrice on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the disaster.
The Italian Prime Minister then attended a mass at a nearby sports ground attended by local residents and pledged to speed up reconstruction efforts in the region.
Italian government officials had pledged to rebuild the collapsed historic center of Amatrice and other nearby towns after the earthquake, but bureaucratic issues slowed efforts.
“In the past it was slow, but now the situation is different,” Draghi told a residents’ committee, according to a statement.
“The reconstruction work is progressing faster. I am here to give you the confidence and commitment of the government.
Recently, a government-appointed Reconstruction Commissioner announced that the project was gaining momentum through a streamlined process for approving plans and funding. According to a situation update in June, 12,000 houses had been built and work was underway at 5,000 other sites.
To date, residents and entrepreneurs have applied for funding for the reconstruction totaling 5.4 billion euros. A third of the 10,000 requests authorized to date have been approved in the first six months of this year, the report adds.