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Saturday, September 26, 1998 Published at 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK

World: Europe

Life amid the rubble of Umbria

Restoration work progresses slowly in the famous basilica of St. Francis in Assisi

A year after a double earthquake shook central Italy, causing immense damage to life, property and art, there is growing criticism about the slow pace of reconstruction.

Thirteen people were killed and hundreds of villages and towns were badly damaged in the regions of Umbria and Marche, a year ago, on Saturday.

BBC's Frances Kennedy: "Locals say they've been forgotten"
But in many towns and villages along the Apennines the rubble from the earthquake lies exactly where it did a year ago.

BBC correspondent Frances Kennedy says unsafe buildings are still cordoned-off and signs of construction activity are rare.

Bureacracy and lack of funds

[ image: Many buildings were destroyed in the aftershocks of the quake]
Many buildings were destroyed in the aftershocks of the quake
In a tangle of bureaucracy, only a fraction of the planned reconstruction projects have been approved.

Requests for government funding have still not been processed, and until they know the money is coming, many people are reluctant to undertake expensive building work.

'The anger is growing'

About 20,000 people in Umbria and Marche are still homeless.

[ image: About 20,000 pepople are on for a second cold winter in makeshift accomodation]
About 20,000 pepople are on for a second cold winter in makeshift accomodation
As they face a second winter in chilly metal huts, they despair of returning home before the end of the century.

"For us, after a year, we don't know positively when we can return," said one quake victim.

"The anger is growing," she said.

Trailer cities have sprung up, with trailer laundries, trailer barbershops and trailer flower stores.

Economy crumbled

Many people have seen their livelihood destroyed.

The economy revolves around agriculture, small industry, and most importantly, tourism.

But this has come to a virtual standstill because of the risk of more seismic activity and the closure of many museums.

Slow pace of restoration

[ image: Painstacking work to restore the crubbled frescoes of Giotto and Cimabue]
Painstacking work to restore the crubbled frescoes of Giotto and Cimabue
Efforts to repair the region's wealth of churches and artistic sites are also paralysed.

The most high-profile operation, the restoration of the Basilica of St Francis of Assisi and attempts to piece together frescoes by Giotto and Cimabue, is progressing slowly but to schedule.

However, art experts are concerned that numerous valuable but lesser works may never be repaired because they will run out of time, energy and money.

Experts estimate that reconstruction will cost more than $2bn and take until the year 2015.

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