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Damage from earthquakes in Central Italy seen costing €23.5 billion

by Massimo Frontera

The earthquake has presented its bill, and the costs are very steep. The total monetary amount of damages caused by the tremors that shook Central Italy between August 24th and January 18th has surpassed €23.53 billion. This figure includes the emergency costs and an estimation of the damages to the infrastructure, private buildings, cultural assets, public buildings, and the production system, both for the agro-industrial sector and livestock.

The cost calculations were reported in a dossier that Fabrizio Curcio, head of Civil Protection, sent to Italy’s representatives in Brussels on Monday night. The representatives reported the findings to the Commission yesterday, in order to access the support of the community fund for emergencies: the EU Solidarity Fund (which has already given Italy €30 million in advance).

The first thing in the dossier that catches the eye is a surge in costs between August and today. In the first estimates sent to Brussels after the earthquake on August 24th, the damages totaled €7,055,000,000. The strong, subsequent quakes more than tripled this amount.

The breakdown of the damages shows that private buildings are the worst hit sector, with €12.9 billion in damages (estimates showed €4.9 billion after August, with a further €8 billion caused between October and January).

The second-largest amount was damages to cultural assets, which were worth more than €3.1 billion. The damages to infrastructure—from streets to networks (energy, water, gas, etc.)—amounted to more than €2.7 billion. Then there were the damages to public buildings (€1.1 billion) and, finally, the damages to production activities, the agro-industrial system, and livestock, which totaled €454.2 million (with a clear spike in costs between the first estimate of €95.7 million, and the following total that added another €358.5 million).

The most important section (in order to gain Brussels’s support) were emergency spendings, which the dossier calculated to be €3.24 billion. This figure accounts for the costs of urgent accommodation and housing solutions, rescuers and workers involved in the devastated areas and, moreover, the costs of directly supporting and helping the affected population.

With yesterday’s dossier, Italy has proven to be the main recipient from the post-natural-disaster community fund. Italy currently has received the two largest contributions ever given to a country: one that Brussels issued after the 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila (€493.8 million received), and the other after the 2012 earthquake in Emilia Romagna (as well as Lombardy and Veneto), for €670.2 million (to compensate for €12.3 billion in damages).

With the Solidarity Fund’s last update, Italy is also the largest beneficiary overall: a total of €1.319 billion received between 2002 and today (Germany is in second place, with just over €1 billion, and the UK is in third with €222.6 million).

But with this last earthquake, the numbers are incomparably higher than any other disaster covered by the EU Fund. Now, the Commission must look at the numbers and decide how big of a check to write to Italy.

The wait shouldn’t be long: after the 2012 earthquake, Italy sent its dossier on July 27th and Brussels’s reply arrived on September 19th.