Saturday, June 02, 2012

Andrea Vogt Reports First-Hand On The Earthquakes That Have Hit Italy’s Economic Epicenter

Posted by Peter Quennell

[Images here are by Andrea Vogt and one each Getty Images and NBC.]

Italy’s previous large earthquake in 2009 resulted in 308 deaths around L’Aquila.

A lot of the extensive damage to that town occurred because L’Aquila is an old city (one hour south-east of Perugia) which had not yet been braced or modernised to withstand severe earthquakes.

The two quakes that hit the province of Modena (map at bottom) in the past two weeks resulted in less than two dozen deaths, but in all other respects their damage has been far greater. They were more severe on the Richter scale than the L’Aquila earthquake and tremors were felt all over northern Italy and up into Austria.

And they struck right in Italy’s economic-exports heartland.

Car-makes Maserati, Ferrari and Lamborghini and the mortorcycle maker Ducati are all based right there and all of their plants temporarily had to shut down. Maserati and Ferrari are now owned by FIAT (majority owner of the US’s Dodge-Chrysler) which also saw other assembly plants hit.

Modena also produces cheeses which are heavily exported, and not far away are the plants of the exporters of textile, leather and jewelery fashion goods, of ceramics, of foods other than cheeses, and of Italian wines.

On-the-spot reports by Andrea Vogt with more close-up human detail than most others have appeared on a number of media websites. Excerpts from the report Andrea Vogt filed with Tom Kington which appeared on the Guardian website:

The Italian government said 8,000 people were left homeless, adding to the 6,000 already sleeping in tents and temporary accommodation after the first, 6.0-magnitude quake, which struck the same area in the early hours and killed seven.

The latest quake occurred at 9am when more factories were open ““ causing the higher death toll…. Some of the victims died in factories that had just reopened after suffering damage in the earlier quake.

“I saw dust and smoke coming up from the factories and warehouses on the edge of town,” said Cavezzo resident Maurizio Bruschi. “Many told themselves that the worst was over. But we keep getting hammered.”,,,

The quakes are a serious blow for one of Italy’s most productive regions, just as the country struggles to lift itself out of recession.  “Fear will paralyse Emilia now,” wrote Mario Calabresi, editor of the newspaper La Stampa. “Who’s going to be willing to go back to work in a big warehouse now?” he asked…

Convoys of fire brigades and ambulances clogged tiny roads east of Modena, many littered with downed electrical lines and fallen debris. In the tent cities instructions were written in Italian and Arabic for the benefit of migrants working in local factories.

Other residents set up tents in their gardens, or made plans to head to relatives or to the Adriatic coast, where some hotels were opening up rooms to evacuees.”

More below.

From the same report, a story of a priest who was one of those killed by the unexpected double whammy.

In Rovereto sul Secchia a priest, Father Ivan Martini, was killed by a falling beam when his church partially collapsed on him. He was visiting the church, which had been damaged in the earlier quake, to see if he could salvage a statue of the Madonna.

“He was brilliant, and very dedicated, especially to the inmates incarcerated in Modena, where he was the prison chaplain,” said fellow priest Father Carlo Truzzi.

Andrea Vogt also posted a more detailed day-by-day report on her blog the Freelance Desk after combing the stricken areas. Her description below is what happened to the collapsed ceramics plant you can see in the first image below. .

Just a few hundred meters away, workers and curious onlookers came to see what was left of the twisted blue steel of the Sant’ Agostino Ceramics plant. They stared, the silence broken only by the eery sound of ceramic tiles clanking down from high scaffolding into the knot of bent metal.  Two workers, Nicola Cavicchi, 35, and Leonardo Ansaloni, 51, died under the rubble as they tried to escape.

When Italy looses, we all really loose. Tough time to now have to pay for re-building.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/02/12 at 07:08 PM in The wider contextsItalian context


What a shame! It hurts to see Italy suffering. The car manufacturers, deaths like the devoted priest, damage to ceramics and cheese makers, lost jobs. It’s bad that fear might stop workers returning to twice-hit worksites. Maybe this crisis will shake things up. International aid could pour in and rescue the region beyond their wildest dreams. A few firms might relocate to areas that have long needed a boost. Meanwhile, it’s very tough.

On different subject, PMF recently discussed photos of a Halloween candle in kitchen sink at Perugia cottage. Poetic leap here but Meredith loved Halloween and had her light snuffed out. Being in the sink normally signifies being under water. Meredith under water, this brought back image of her reading “Sea of Truth”, also the Japanese prints of ocean waves on her door. The frequent water imagery in Amanda’s writings led Statement Analysis to conclude the crime was sexually based.

I re-read Amanda’s explanation that she brought a plastic bag from Raf’s place back to the cottage. Could a plastic bag have been tied around Meredith’s head in an effort to strangle or asphyixiate her? In the end, she somewhat drowned from blood in her lungs, IIRC as well as shock from blood loss. Maybe the candle in smiling pumpkin’s head is symbol of Meredith’s good brain which aroused envy.

Posted by Hopeful on 06/03/12 at 08:40 PM | #

Hi Hopeful.

Really nice to have you back and it sounds like the extended stay “over there” really rebooted you! I have seen that so often and for that reason UN development has a staff policy of rotating field staff into new countries on average every 3 years. 

On Italy, you are as hopeful as ever! I think there is reason to be. Italians have an open entrepreneurial mindset which is less obvious further north in Europe where doing things by the book is more the norm. Both mindsets have their huge pluses - but to re-boot the European economy it is the Italian kind of mindset that will provide the most success.

In 1999 the Mercedes people in Germany (Daimler Benz) bought Dodge-Chrysler in Detroit and installed Germans in all the top positions. Some key Americans then walked. After the most remarked-upon culture clash in all business history, in 2007 Daimler-Benz finally admitted failure, having run the US’s most successful car-maker back in the 90s into the ground - and THEY walked.

The US could only find FIAT willing to step in to save Chrysler and try to get it back on its feet. The general reaction was “uh-oh!”.

But guess what? Real Italian-American teamwork has transformed Chrysler, and the best is yet to come. A spectacular new Dodge is about to roll out (the Dart - based on an Alfa Romeo!) and around New York and all over California the funny little FIAT 500 is selling like hot cakes.

Ever since Fiat took control of Chrysler, Mr. Marchionne has said he planned to leverage the strengths of both companies and operate them as co-equals.

But that goal was questioned by industry analysts who saw how Daimler-Benz dominated Chrysler during their nine-year merger.

“Daimler could never figure out what to do with Chrysler because they had no interest in integrating it into their business,” Mr. Hall said. “But Fiat actually believes it needs Chrysler for mass purchasing of parts.”

In Mr. Marchionne, Fiat and Chrysler have a strong leader who divides his time equally between the two companies. He has also promoted executives from both sides and assigned responsibilities that cut across geographic and corporate lines.

“This management team spends their time traveling and making decisions in the operating regions,” Mr. Marchionne said. “But this thing runs as one house.”

The miracle today is that Fiat is rapidly becoming fully integrated with Chrysler. The Dart is proof. Under the Dart’s skin, or “Top Hat” as they say in the business, are the basics of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta. From the modular architecture of the Alfa, the Chrysler people made the car their own by lengthening and widening the Giulietta. The idea: retain the road-holding agility of the Italian car while also making the Dart big enough to satisfy wide-body North Americans who equate size with value – and do all of it while making a tidy profit.

Ah, profits. Another miracle. Last week, Chrysler said its net income in the first quarter more than quadrupled to $473-million (U.S.). Operating profit was up to $740-million (U.S.), revenue was up 25 per cent, debt was down by the billions, sales were up 25 per cent worldwide and market share in Canada was up to 15.1 per cent and 11.2 per cent in the United States. An improbable business and consumer products story is starting to take shape here.

It’s probably no surprise to see companies run from overseas leading the surge in car sales. After all, cars far outstrip light trucks in global auto sales, and Europe and Asia have long paid more for gas than consumers in the United States.

Of course, you’re bound to guess the name of one of leaders. That’s right, Japan’s Toyota is among the three biggest gainers in American car market share this year. But it isn’t the biggest. That honor goes to Chrysler, which is under the wing of Italy’s Fiat.

Chrysler has picked up 1.8 percentage points this year in car sales, led by some pretty extraordinary gains by vehicles such as the Chrysler 200 and Chrysler 300. In all, sales of Chrysler brand cars are up 149 percent this year, while sales of the Fiat 500 are up by 818 percent over 2011.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/04/12 at 02:27 PM | #

Thanks, Peter! yes I’m rebooted, gotta love it. I’ll curtail my enthusiasm soon on comments. Thanks for a warm welcome back.

Land of Ford, yay, the USA where cars are king! Now you bring good news and hope. Here’s to Fiat reviving our beloved Chrysler!!!! The Italians love racing, fast engines, oh how they love speed and sportscars. They make elegant designs like their art. With Chrysler and US resources, sky’s the limit.

I hope the Dodge Dart becomes the new Honda Accord. Like you say, a new paradigm, foreign thinking when things get stale. Vision and vigor of management are key. Like the sun, energy in this world is continuous. May Fiat direct it to success.

Posted by Hopeful on 06/04/12 at 05:02 PM | #

Also hit: Italy’s biomedical park in the area. Rated #3 in the world.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/05/12 at 01:25 AM | #

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