Italy launches criminal investigation into buildings destroyed in earthquake

ROME, Aug. 28 (UPI) — A criminal investigation has been launched to determine why buildings that were reportedly reinforced, collapsed during an earthquake that struck the country Aug. 24.

At least 290 people died in the 6.2 magnitude quake, which centered on the town of Amatice. In addition to the deaths, thousands more were injured and left homeless, now living in tents or in their cars, International Business Times reported.

Prosecutors are particularly focusing on why a school and a church bell tower collapsed. Both had been reinforced previously to withstand earthquakes. When the bell tower of Accumoli church fell, it killed a family of four.

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The mafia is heavily involved in local corruption in some parts of Italy, which includes shoddy construction, local news reported. Police are guarding the town hall in Amatrice to ensure no construction records are removed.

“Everyone suspects such a tragedy was not just a question of destiny,” said Giuseppe Saieva, chief prosecutor in the provincial capital of Rieti, north of Rome. Saieva is leading the investigation. “Our duty is to verify if there was also responsibility, human culpability,” The Guardian reported.

Saieva said any property owners that commissioned work using substandard materials could face prosecution for contributing to the destruction and loss of lives. He said many of the buildings appear to have been constructed with “more sand than cement. They call it fate but if these buildings had been constructed as they are in Japan they wouldn’t have collapsed.”

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