EU set to foot bill for reconstruction costs after local disasters

Italian emergency services in Pescara del Tronto, Italy, 25 May 2017 Image copyright Margherita Rinaldi
Image caption The Italian hamlet of Pescara del Tronto was shattered by the 24 August quake

The European Union will meet up to 95% of the cost of reconstruction in local disaster zones under proposals going forward in Brussels.

A provisional deal was reached between the European Council and European Parliament on aid for regions hit by disasters like earthquakes or floods.

EU aid currently accounts for 50% of reconstruction costs in some regions.

The head of the EU's Committee of the Regions welcomed the news while visiting the Italian earthquake zone.

"Welcome @EUCouncil decision yesterday on 95% co-financing for #EUregions hit by natural disasters: solidarity is a founding EU value," Marrku Markkula said in a tweet after touring the ruined hamlet of Pescara del Tronto in Marche region.

Image copyright Markku Markkula
Image caption Wooden houses have been erected in Pescara for people who lost their homes

On 24 August last year, a 6.0-magnitude earthquake killed 46 people there, out of a total of 298 fatalities across central Italy that day.

Under the deal reached in Brussels on Wednesday, which must be adopted by the parliament and the council to enter into force, total EU support for disaster-stricken regions could reach €9.8bn (£8.4bn; $11bn) for the period 2014-2020.

Image copyright Margherita Rinaldi
Image caption Personal possessions found in the ruins of Pescara del Tronto have been collected in the hope they will be returned to their owners

This is in addition to €500m from a solidarity fund which the EU is able to mobilise each year to help member states cope with natural disasters.

In February, Italy's Civil Protection Agency estimated that the 24 August earthquake and subsequent tremors had cost the country more than €23bn.

Damage to buildings, both privately and publicly owned, came to €14bn, it said.

In the Tronto Valley, Mr Markkula was shown the progress of work to clear up rubble and house people who had lost their homes in wooden cabins.

"Coming from #Norcia this evening," he tweeted later, "I'm even more certain that rebuilding #culturalheritage is a necessary part of #futureofEurope debates."

Image caption The Italian city of L'Aquila is still being rebuilt after a 2009 earthquake