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03/07/2018 04:25:00

Poggioreale, the Sicilian town frozen in time 50 years after a devastating earthquake

 In January 1968, a deadly earthquake devastated the Sicilian town of Poggioreale. 

More than 200 people were killed across the region, and thousands were left homeless.

"There was so much fear, terror and fright," earthquake survivor Mariano Pace said.

Today, the ruins of the old city are frozen in time on the side of hill.

Rubble piles fill the shells of wrecked buildings.

Weeds reach through the cracked mess of somebody's former home.

It's completely quiet except for the only current residents: a pack of stray dogs.

But it's not the only deserted town in the area.

At the time of the earthquake, national disaster relief was a relatively new concept.

Authorities of the day were making it up as they went along.

This is partly why the ruins were never totally bulldozed. They didn't know how to do it safely.

The town was virtually deserted after the earthquake. Picture: 9NEWS

The town was virtually deserted after the earthquake. Picture: 9NEWS


To relocate the citizens of the area, a new town was built further down the hill.

It was not a success.

"The earthquake hit people, houses and dreams. Not only people and houses," Maurizio Carta explained.

Carta is the Professor of Urbanism at the local university.

Many survivors simply didn't want to stay, he said.

Of the thousands that did leave, a large number settled in the Sydney suburb of Drummoyne.  

Most of those who stuck around, grew to regret the decision.

The rebuild was flawed from the start.

It was a "top-down" project. National authorities were calling the shots.

Locals weren't consulted, and the result was a modern-looking village that completely lacked any local character. 

The original rebuild of the city was deemed a failure. Picture: 9NEWS

The original rebuild of the city was deemed a failure. Picture: 9NEWS


"It was a design, a shape, a place without soul," Professor Carta said.

The exodus began.

Today apartments in the new Poggioreale sell for just $23,000.

The main town square is lifeless and even the medical centre is abandoned.

9NEWS visited the new town recently and discovered that there are not many locals left.

Mariano Pace is one of the few.

Mr Pace speaks to us from the vacant town square and recalls the night after the earthquake. 

"My father ordered my brother and I to hug each time there was an aftershock. He thought that if we had to die we had to die hugging each other," he said, slowly.

It's hoped tourism will revitalise the city. Picture: 9NEWS

It's hoped tourism will revitalise the city. Picture: 9NEWS


A decent person like Mariano deserves more neighbours.

Luckily, the local mayor is full of hope.

He says that this twin-city of ghost towns can lure people back by using the very event that caused them to leave in the first place. 

"We need to sell the tourism opportunities," says the excited local mayor. 

"The earthquake ruins could potentially attract a lot of tourists. The future is in tourism."

Prof. Carta and the mayor have teamed-up to create a revival plan.

They believe that the earthquake ruins could convince outsiders to come and explore.

A visitor's centre is already under construction to appeal to this market.

"There is a community that wants to reboot the territory," Prof. Carta stressed.

It's a long shot, but who knows.

Maybe this town's darkest day can shine a light of hope for its future. 

By Seb Costello (qui il link originale)