Cut-price house renovations blamed for high death toll in Italy earthquake

Shoddy, price-cutting renovations, in breach of local building regulations, could be partly to blame for the high death toll from this week’s devastating earthquake in Italy, according to a prosecutor investigating the disaster. As questions mount over the deaths of nearly 300 people, prosecutor Giuseppe Saieva indicated that property owners who commissioned suspected sub-standard work could be held responsible for contributing to the quake’s deadly impact. Mr Saieva said the tragedy could not simply be filed away as an unavoidable natural disaster. “If the buildings had been constructed as they are in Japan they wouldn’t have collapsed,” he said.

I can only think it was built on the cheap with more sand than cement

Prosecutor Giuseppe Saieva as he inspected a collapsed villa

Most of the buildings in the quake zone had no anti-seismic protection, but even some of those that did, including a school in the worst-hit town of Amatrice, fell apart. Magistrates have opened an investigation into some of the incidents, including the collapse of a bell tower which smashed through the roof of an adjacent building killing a family of four in Accumoli, Engineering and architectural experts have highlighted the widespread use of heavy, inflexible but relatively cheap cement beams for house extensions and renovations as a possible factor explaining why so many buildings collapsed. Meanwhile, Sunday’s takings from public museums across Italy will be dedicated to rebuilding work after the earthquake. Culture minister Dario Franceschini urged Italians to go out in force to visit museums and archaeological sites “in a concrete sign of solidarity” with quake victims.

If we start from the idea of upgrading every old building to comparable safety levels of a modern building built to anti-seismic norms, we have to accept that we will never get there

Paolo Bazzurro, a professor in construction techniques at the University of Pavia.