Rome (AFP) Aug 7, 2009
The last few hundred victims of April's earthquake whose homes were never seriously damaged may no longer stay for free in hotels, Italian officials said Friday.
"These people no longer have the right to be housed at the state's expense" since their homes could accommodate them, a civil defence official based in L'Aquila told AFP.
About 100 people have already left the hotels and officials are expecting to several hundred others will have followed by Friday evening.
That would account for almost everyone able to return, said the official, four months after the April 6 earthquake which left close to 300 people dead.
Thousands of residents of the town of L'Aquila left their homes after the deadly earthquake and many have until now refused to go back for fear of the aftershocks that have continued to shake the Abruzzo region.
"We need to begin picking up normal life again little by little," the official said.
According to a government order issued on Thursday, quake victims still living in hotels must make a legal declaration that they are not able to return to their homes or they must pay for any further nights.
About 50 percent of homes in the quake zone have been declared safe. Residents can, however, take advantage of a second expert opinion if they have any doubts.
Some 19,000 people are still living in hotels, 20,000 in tents, while 10,000 others are staying with friends and relatives.
The first batch of houses ready for occupancy should be handed over by mid-September, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Friday.
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