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Italian premier vows 'responses' to Emilia victims

Letta visits region one year after quakes

Italian premier vows 'responses' to Emilia victims

Bologna, May 30 - Italian Premier Enrico Letta visited the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna on Wednesday in memory of a series of lethal earthquakes that shattered lives, razed buildings and pummeled businesses in May 2012. "We want to work very hard to give responses" to those hit by the quakes, said Letta upon his arrival, accompanied by Emilia-Romagna Governor Vasco Errani and Italian Regional Affairs Minister. Last week Letta said he was visiting to "commemorate (the quake) and accelerate the reconstruction," he said on Twitter. The first quake, which struck just after 4 am Italian time on May 20 last year, measured a magnitude of 5.9 and was followed by a 5.8-magnitude quake on May 29. These and their aftershocks killed a total of 27 people and left thousands homeless. The economy in the area, long a powerhouse of Italian industrial output, also suffered a huge blow, with the damage estimated to amount to five billion euros, and shaving roughly 1.0% off of Italy's entire gross domestic product (GDP). The zone's hobbled agricultural businesses and farms have yet to see a single euro of relief funds, an agricultural business association complained last week. The "enemy" has been bureaucracy, said the Emilia-Romagna regional branch of Coldiretti in a note. The European Commission in December gave Italy the green light to extend 2.66 billion euros in aid to farms and food processing plants in Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy and the Veneto region, for the earthquake damage suffered in May 2012. But the "survey of damage and allocation of funds" was mired by "an extremely fragmented and complex bureaucracy" of rules and public administration that have made it impossible for funds to reach the people and businesses who need them "at a pace appropriate to the seriousness of the event", explained Coldiretti. On the one year anniversary of the first quake last week, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said the country was united by the pain and the memory of the quakes. "Tragedies of this kind inflict a serious wound on the entire country, which must unite itself in the pain and in the memory," said Napolitano in a statement.

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