The EU has pledged to provide whatever help Rome requests in the wake of an overnight earthquake in central Italy which has so far claimed at least 38 lives.
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted “solidarity”, and said the EU was ready to assist the Italian emergency services.
Commissioner Christos Stylianides, responsible for humanitarian aid and crisis management, followed that up with a statement spelling out assistance already offered, or accepted.
Thus far, he said, “the Italian authorities have requested that the Copernicus Emergency Management Services provide damage assessment satellite maps for the affected area. This will of course be done”.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi will visit the scene of the disaster this afternoon. At an emotional press conference this morning (24 August), he said “now was the time to cry, but also to act”.
“When things don’t go well, the whole of Italy demonstrates its most beautiful aspect,” Renzi added, via a translator.
The earthquake hit at around 3:30 AM local time, some 100 KM northeast of Rome, the capital. The epicentre bordered the regions of Umbria, Lazio and Le Marche.
The biggest casualties seem to have come from the village of Pescara del Tronto, and the nearby town of Amatrice.
In 2009, an earthquake killed some 309 people in Aquila. Then-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was criticised for over-promising on the country’s ability to deal with that disaster.
Juncker said, “We stand, as ever, in solidarity with the Italian nation and are ready to assist in any way we can.”
Stylianides elucidated, “The EU is ready to help.
“At the moment, the Commission’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre is closely monitoring the situation and has already been in contact with the Italian civil protection authorities during the night regarding any help which could be requested.
“So far, the Italian authorities have requested that the Copernicus Emergency Management Services provide damage assessment satellite maps for the affected area. This will of course be done.”
GUE-NGL, the Nordic Green group in the European Parliament, also expressed their sympathy for the victims of the quake.