This week, with the tragic earthquake in central Italy shaking us all near and far, one who knows Sicilian history can’t but help think about the Belice Earthquake that occurred during the night of January 14 and 15, 1968 through early February 1968. It was before the Richter Scale measured tremors in Italy, so it’s hard to say in those terms how strong it was, but know this: it was many seismic events occurring on an Extreme level, one after another for many days. The center of the quake was in Gibellina, a town that was totally flattened and, upon rebuilding, was moved to a different location, 12 miles from its original position. Other towns affected in the Belice Valley include Santa Margherita di Belice, Santa Ninfa, Partanna, Salaparuta, Poggioreale, Montevago, and Salemi, pictured here (to name a few). A lot can be said of this tragedy that killed about 230 people, left nearly a thousand injured, and some say, 100,000 people homeless. And despicably, the Italian government and regional government of Sicily were completely unprepared to manage such a disaster. Thousands of people lived in tents and army-style barracks for more than a decade following the earthquakes.
Still today, you will find evidence of the dysfunction and corruption that plagued the rescue and rebuilding efforts. Having seen photos and video of victims and the towns following the events and having visited new Gibellina, I can say that my stomach is upset just thinking about it.
The piazza pictured, Piazza Alicia, is in the town Salemi. The structure you see is what is left of the town’s Mother Church after the Belice Earthquake. During the 1990s, architects re-purposed the ruins to make a meeting place and performance space for the community. I took this photo in May 2016.
Join me in donating to help today’s earthquake victims. Visit https://www.italianamericanrelief.org