Italy: Ban voices sorrow over deadly earthquake, UN stands ready to assist

6 April 2009

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his sadness over the heavy loss of life in this morning’s earthquake in central Italy, with the United Nations having alerted the European nation’s Government that it is prepared to provide disaster response support.

According to media reports, the 6.3-magnitude quake has claimed more than 100 lives.

Mr. Ban is “saddened by the heavy loss of life and destruction of property,” his spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters, adding that he sends his condolences to the families and friends of those killed.

Today’s tremors, which struck the town of Aquila, nearly 100 kilometres north-east of Rome, serve as a stark reminder that Europe is not immune from powerful earthquakes, the UN agency tasked with minimizing the threat posed by natural disasters said today.

The intensity of the Italian earthquake matched that of the May 2006 tremors in the Indonesian island of Java, which killed over 5,000 people in the city of Yogyakarta, the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) pointed out.

The agency underscored that buildings are the main killers when earthquakes strike, which is why constructing resilient structures in quake-prone zones is essential.

The deadly earthquake today stemmed from a fault line stretching from the north to the south of Italy, where tremors have wreaked over €20 billion in direct damage over the past four decades, ISDR said.

“The cost of investing in structural resilience and proper site selection from the start is minimal compared to the necessary reconstruction when earthquakes have happened – not to mention the devastation of human life cut short,” said Helena Molin-Valdes, the agency’s Deputy Director.

“Investment in disaster risk reduction is a must if we want to save more lives and more dollars – and diminish long-term disruption – as more people are now living in cities prone to earthquakes.”

For its part, the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) extended its sympathy to the victims of today’s earthquake.

“This is a terrible tragedy and the thoughts of FAO staff are with the people who are suffering as a result of this cruel catastrophe, especially those who have lost loved ones or who still do not know the fate of someone close to them,” said the agency’s Director General, Jacques Diouf.


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