BBC News

Italy earthquake: Putting a disaster on Facebook

By Patrick Jackson
BBC News, Arquata del Tronto

media captionGaia Paolini and her friends are blogging the aftermath of the quake

Several villages were pulverised by the 24 August earthquake in which 298 people died, but some young Italians are determined not to let it erase their heritage.

In the ruined village of Arquata del Tronto, a group of bloggers has gone in search of its destroyed history, posting findings on a Facebook page called Chiedi alla polvere (Ask The Dust).

"Ask the dust" is an old saying that usually refers to something unknowable. But here, some young residents want to give the dust a voice.

Idyll ruined

Time in the hilltop village of Arquata del Tronto did not just stop during the quake, which struck in the night at 03:36 (01:36 GMT), it disintegrated: the shock wrenched the minute hand from the village clock.

Visits to the no-go "red zones" are brief and hazardous, and firefighters bark you back on to the road if you start down an alley or peer too closely into a ruined house.

But the dust stays with you. A fine white coating that clings to your boots.

image captionThe minute hand is gone from the clock in Arquata del Tronto

From a tent in an aid camp in Arquata's lower village, the bloggers post old photos of the village and its surroundings, stories and reflections, news about the relief effort, blogging in Italian and English.

One entry shows a child's drawing of an idyllic little house with a horse and a hen - next to a photo of a ruin.

"I thought I was at my house," it begins. "There where nothing bad that could happen. My refuge, my every day, my bed, my beloved couch where I spent entire afternoons in winter watching movies."

"Unfortunately," the post ends, it became "that part of TV that every time I hate to see" - the TV news. "My couch is gone."

image copyrightFacebook
image captionA childhood refuge became a ruin on the TV news for one contributor to the Chiedi alla polvere page
image copyrightAFP
image captionPope Francis visited Arquata del Tronto on Tuesday and spent time talking to children caught up in the quake

When Gaia Paolini, 18, comes home from her school in Ascoli Piceno she spends time with her childhood friends curating the blog. She is one of the lucky ones whose home survived the quake.

"We put our emotions, all our story, the story of the village, into the page," she says.

"We are trying to preserve the memory of this place and also trying to preserve its future after the construction of new buildings that we hope can be made soon."

image copyrightAsk The Dust
image captionThe blog goes out from a tent in the camp
image copyrightAsk The Dust
image captionReporting kit was donated by Italians to the Ask The Dust team

The blog records the support that the village has received, from the aid effort co-ordinated by the government to the concerts played by visiting musicians in the canteen tent, which is also used for church services.

"We have so much help from local people and people all over Italy and it is so beautiful," Gaia says.

'Like sisters or friends'

Another website translates a poem from before the quake about Pescara del Tronto, a hamlet near Arquata that suffered even greater damage: 48 people died there, including 12 tourists.

"Pescara sweet notes

Of water,

Pescara of rocks and labours

Stories of fathers

Ancient Tales,

Pescara of houses

Cling to each other

Like sisters or friends.

Pescara perfume

From childhood and memories

Walls of stone

Warm sunsets."

The poem, written by someone called Eidi, comes from Pescara's website, which has become a virtual time capsule for the pre-quake days when holidaymakers headed there for the mountain air and tranquillity.

One day the tourists will return to the Tronto Valley and its ruined villages will be rebuilt.

This latest chapter of its history will then stand as a record of the years turned into dust and of the young bloggers' love for a place they called home.

Related Topics

  • Italy
  • Earthquakes

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