Anti-mafia chief says organised crime was notorious for infiltrating construction contracts after 1980 quake

Italian authorities must ensure the mafia is blocked from playing any role in reconstruction after the country’s devastating earthquake that killed nearly 300 people, the country’s top anti-mafia prosecutor has said.

Franco Roberti, head of Italy’s national anti-mafia directorate, said organised crime had been notorious for infiltrating construction contracts after the 1980 Irpinia quake near Naples in which at least 2,483 people died. He said steps must be taken to ensure this did not occur after the 6.2 magnitude quake that devastated central Italian towns including Amatrice, Accumoli and Pescara del Tronto last week.

“There are risks, it is useless to hide it,” Roberti told the Italian daily La Repubblica. “And post-earthquake reconstruction is a tasty morsel for criminal organisations and committees.”

Roberti, who was the chief prosecutor in Salerno before his appointment in 2013, said that faulty construction by the Naples Camorra had also played a role in the death and destruction at Irpinia. He said lessons had been learned but the risks remained. “They are always high but the dramatic experience from the L’Aquila earthquake gave us an important model that has worked well,” he said. “We are ready.”

Roberti’s comments come after Italian magistrates opened an inquiry into whether companies ignored anti-seismic regulations when restoring public buildings, such as a school in Amatrice that was reduced to rubble in last week’s earthquake.

“Everyone suspects such a tragedy was not just a question of destiny,” said Giuseppe Saieva, chief prosecutor in the provincial capital of Rieti, north of Rome, who is heading the investigation. “Our duty is to verify if there was also responsibility, human culpability.”

There have been further claims in the Italian media that the Romolo Capranica school that collapsed in Amatrice was not constructed to meet quake-resistant norms. The school was inaugurated in 2012 after being rebuilt by a consortium of builders, Valori Scarl, which won a contract from Amatrice town council for €700,000 (£600,000) to implement anti-earthquake safety standards in the school buildings, according to judicial sources. A lawyer for the consortium, Filippo Dinacci, has defended the builders and said they had acted correctly.

Italy held a day of national mourning on Saturday for the 290 victims of the earthquake. In Ascoli Piceno, an emotional funeral was held for dozens of local victims and the president, Sergio Mattarella, and the prime minister, Matteo Renzi, joined hundreds to mourn the victims while flags flew at half-mast across the country.

As civil protection crews and firefighters continued to search for survivors in the three medieval towns on Sunday, Italy’s state museums were donating proceeds to relief and reconstruction. The culture minister, Dario Franceschini, appealed to Italians to visit a museum as a gesture of solidarity for the quake victims and their families.

Meanwhile there is growing concern that thousands of schools and public buildings are at risk because they are not quake-proof. Italian media reported 60% of councils in the Lazio region surrounding Rome have no emergency plans.

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