Italy is beloved for its rich architectural history. But that beauty comes at a steep price: both the lives lost when nature reminds its borrowers who is boss, and the money required in the attempt to even the scales.
The country has spent an average of 3.5 billion euros a year, or $3.9 billion, for the past 50 years to fix earthquake damage, according to the Italian Association of Builders. And, in the aftermath of Wednesday’s quake, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi announced yet another plan to rebuild and buttress Italy’s ancient infrastructure.
Many experts maintain that Italy has among the world’s best anti-seismic standards already — at least on paper. But the problems in executing them are legion: money, corruption, tangled bureaucracy, shoddy construction and a lack of enforcement of national regulations at the local level.
This quake, like many in the past, already seems likely to expose corners that were cut, contributing to the 280 or more deaths in about 80 villages in the area along the Apennines, Italy’s fragile spinal cord, where the 6.2-magnitude quake struck.
Prosecutors quickly announced an investigation into why a school in Amatrice, the town of about 2,600 where the most deaths occurred, and the bell tower in nearby Accumoli collapsed. The bell tower, which had recently been refurbished, killed an entire family when it fell. The school, built in the 1930s and renovated in 2012, was supposedly built to new anti-seismic standards. […]