Sunday, October 04, 2009


Like everyone in Sicily, I am thinking this evening of the people of Messina and my heart goes out to them as rescuers tirelessly continue the search for 40 people still missing after the mudslide of the night of 1-2 October.

Horrifying images of the tragedy have now gone around the world and as a Welshwoman I cannot help remembering Aberfan. In that sad town, too, a "tragedy was waiting to happen" and one day, it did. There, too, the folly of man was a contributory factor and there, too, warnings went unheeded. And there , too, torrential rain caused a mountain to move upon an October day.

Deforestation; uncontrolled, unauthorised building; unwise, dense areas of construction too close to a riverbed and the sea; all are partly to blame and politicians are accused of sitting on their laurels whilst these processes have taken place. Oh, pity the south: criticised for lagging behind in urban development and often derided as "Africa" in the north, what can it do? And it is not alone in its haste to build: 70% of Italian towns are said to be at risk of hydro-geological disaster and in Sicily 92% of councils are doing nothing about the situation.

Watching the Italian television coverage, you begin to understand the appeal of Berlusconi: at his best in such a crisis, he has visited the area today and has not procrastinated. He will provide new housing for the survivors on the L'Aquila model and he has said so categorically.

You also see the Italian people at their best: all who can do so volunteer to help in the rescue efforts whilst luxury hotels along the Messina stretto open their doors to those made homeless by the disaster. These impromptu guests do not give a public inventory of their lost possessions but instead tell a rai reporter that they lack for nothing whilst the younger adults among them organise corridor games for the children.

And you wonder about the Messina Bridge, for this is what the project's opponents mean when they protest that there are more important issues to deal with first; basic issues such as ensuring the safety of Sicily's communities.

But let us not forget perfidious nature, a force which we have ceased to respect. As the many voices are raised, and will continue to be raised, in justified anger, let us remember Mayor Buzzanca of Messina's statement that no one could have predicted that 250 mm of rain would fall on the area in a matter of hours.
Once blame is apportioned, as it must be, and headlines focus on this rather than the human tragedy, we tend, if we are not personally affected, to move on and forget. So I ask you to hold the brave Messinesi in your hearts tonight and in the difficult days to come.


Laura said...

Thank you for your comments about Messina. I have tried to find information in the news here in the US, but our media is focused on the recent breakup of two young musicians, or another star's short skirt or some such thing.

My heart goes out to the many folks affected by this tragedy. I love how you portray the spirit of the Sicilian (and Italian) people. Keep us posted.

Cat said...

We have been following and discussing this a lot at home (my partner is from southern Italy and he follows every piece of news coming out fervently). Thanks for sharing the news from a more local level. It is easy to see contributory factors but in a sense, a lot of us live on the edge between expediency and prevention of future harm - same as those who live on the slopes of Vesuvius (I had it explained to me MANY times by friends in Catania that Etna is altogether different and far safer!) or on the San Andreas fault.

It doesn't make the tragedy any less felt though on a human level.

Mary said...

It has been a shocking few days. Huge sympathy to all those caught up in this tragedy. Thoughts also, for those in Samoa and Indonesia tonight.

Whispering Walls said...

It is sad news. Time, tide, typhoons and torrential rain wait for no man...

rochambeau said...

Yes, Welshcakes!!
Thank you for this post. All important information! My heart goes out too. Also for the earthquake victims.

Thank you for dropping by. YOU always brighten my day.
To answer your question. I don't tweet, but Typepad still puts tweet on my comments. Don't know why.

Hugs from afar.
A a prayer for saftey for Italians and ALL the people of our world!


Dragonstar said...

I hadn't heard of this. I rarely watch TV, and i've seen nothing on the internet. Those poor people! I will never forget Aberfan, and to this day I remember what I was doing and how I felt when the news came through.
Now Messina is suffering. Heartbreaking.

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

Very sad new WL..:-) Prayers for all of the town will be said.

CherryPie said...

Thank you for the information, I hadn't heard about it either. Very sad news indeed.

jams o donnell said...

This is terrible news Welshcakes. This is the first I have heard of it. Much as I dislike Berlusconi it's good to see that he has sprung into action,

My thoughts are with teh families of the missing

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Laura. Oh, we have media like that, too! I know you feel for those affected and I'm sure they can feel your love. I'll keep you posted. Hi, cb. You are right: many of us live "on the edge" in one way or another. And your house can be hit by an earthquake in the UK! But of course this is still a tragedy, as you say. Hi, Mary. Yes, a bad few days for disasters of this sort. Your sympathy will be appreciated, I know. Welcome back, WW. You are right. Hello, Rochambeau. Thanks for answering my question and your lovely blog brightens my day, too. Your love and sympathy for those affected by this didaster will be much appreciated. Hi, Dragonstar. I'll never forget what I was doing on the day the Aberfan tragedy happened either. I was 16 and it affected me deeply. Hi, Anne and thank you. Hi, Cherie. Yes, very sad. Hi, jams. I'm no fan of Mr B either but I have to say he has acted swiftly and correctly here. Your kind thoughts for the victims and their loved ones will be appreciated.

PinkAcorn said...

The San Andreas fault..I live just outside of the fault, but within major harms way. I've felt many a quake here in the Santa Clara Valley.
I did not see any news coverage of that is sad...

Trubes said...

That is such sad news about Messina
Welshcakes, and I too, immediately thought of Aberfan.
I was home at the time, as I had Tonsilitis.
There was a lovely coal fire roaring in the grate, and feeling sorry for myself, I was sipping a warm honey and lemon drink.
Turning on the TV, to catch up with the News, I was absolutely horrified, to see the unfolding drama before me.
All those poor children and teachers, who lost their lives in the school at Pantglas, and not forgetting the people in the nearby houses.
The coal I was burning on the fire may well have come from Aberfan.

Each time I have a warm honey and lemon drink, my thoughts are with those who perished in Aberfan.


Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, pink. I didn't realise you lived so close to the Fault. Strange that there's been no coverage of the Messina events over there. There doesn't seem to be much in the UK either, though it is on Sky UK's website and BBC World has reported it. Hi, Trubes. Thanks for sharing your memory of how you heard about Aberfan. It helps convey the enormity of that tragedy. I can understand how a honey and lemon drink would bring the memory back. Love to you and Chloe. x

Minnie said...

Excellent post, Welshcakes. As you know from my PM, the disaster was covered by French media. However, Berlusconi's response is definitely laudable (remember being impressed by the speed and generosity of the l'Aquila project). Good, too, to see solidarity at work.
Floodplains in-building a growing problem in the UK, where bankers and property speculators - as opposed to la meteo - are the ones who wait for neither man nor nature!
I remember Aberfan. We had a collection (at my boarding school), as did many others, and held a special service for the victims and bereived.

Peter @ italyMONDO! said...

"You also see the Italian people at their best: all who can do so volunteer to help in the rescue efforts whilst luxury hotels along the Messina stretto open their doors to those made homeless by the disaster."

....I can only imagine. The Sicilians are wonderful people with enormous hearts. I'm glad to here that in the wake of the tragedy fellow siciliani have been quick to lend a helping hand.

Thank you for the on-site perspective and updates, Welshcakes!!! I hope that everything with well you and your adopted paesani as well, though.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thanks, Phidelm. Yes, Berlusconi was impressive. When you are in a situation like that, you don't care who gives you shelter! Aberfan upset my parents terribly because it was so close to home. You can still see the graves on the hillside if you take that road into Cardiff - terrible. Hi, Peter. Yes, the Sicilians have hearts of gold. We are fine, thank you. I hope you are well, too.


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