Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Italy quake draws little media coverage

Although the story is the top headline, coverage is scant

Unlike previous earthquake tragedies, the Italian earthquake has failed to draw the usual saturation coverage from news channels. Although the news broke in the early hours of Monday, pictures were slow to role in. In Britain several domestic stories also took up much airtime which also pushed the Italian earthquake back on the news agenda. For much of the day CNN continued with regularly scheduled programming with Living Golf and World Sport remaining in place. Other news channels also brought scant coverage of events happening in Italy. Although al-Jazeera, Press TV, France 24 and Russia Today all covered the story, none gave it more than a few minutes airtime.

The 6.3 earthquake struck at 03:32 local time [01:32 GMT] at a depth of only 10 km. Striking in a rural area it has hampered rescue efforts. The tremors also hit towns and villages with extremely old buildings and hardly any remained unscathed. Initially more than 50,000 people were said to have been made homeless in the town of L’Aquila, which means eagle in Italian. But by Tuesday morning the town’s mayor revised this figure down to 10,000. However this still accounts for at least 1 in 7 of the population.

The death toll rose however. First reports indicated a relatively low death toll of some 50 individuals. As night fell the figure had risen to 91. Official figures released on Tuesday morning put the death toll at 179. But many people remain trapped in rubble and rescue efforts are continuing despite there being relatively little coverage of events on the ground.

The effort to dig injured people from the rubble of the ancient town has been difficult. Several aftershocks as large as 4.9 on the Richter scale have shaken the region making the search extremely dangerous. The weather has so far remained clear, but with temperatures falling to as low as 3 degrees Celsius at night, it is imperative to reach those trapped as quickly as possible. Day time temperatures are a little more tolerable reaching about 16 degrees, but Wednesday may bring rain which will add to the problems faced in the rescue effort.

At least 1,500 people have been injured and rescuers have pulled some 100 people alive from the rubble. Authorities say at least 34 people are still missing, but it is not clear whether all the rural areas have been searched. The BBC, which have given the most extensive news coverage, visited the deserted village of Onna where hardly a single property has remained unscathed. The thousands made homeless by this disaster face an uncertain future. New homes will almost certainly have to be built. Even those still standing remain structurally unsafe. As to who will pay for the reconstruction, is also an unknown quantity [BBC / Sky News / CNN].

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