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Quakes Leave Terrified Italians Desperate For Homes Houses Gone, Winter Will Soon Render Tents Inadequate

Sadness and scaffolding will shroud the medieval towns in these fertile and holy hills for years to come after deadly back-to-back earthquakes 10 days ago.

Homes lived in for generations by the same family have been destroyed, villages rendered uninhabitable and ancient churches - including the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi - gravely damaged.

But the residents and the newly homeless of the Umbria and Marche regions have two other immediate concerns: fear stoked by the tremors that just don’t seem to stop, and the coming winter.

“What can we do? There’s nothing to do. I don’t know if I will survive. I sacrificed so much for this house,” said Fernando Angelini, 69.

Cracks radiated down through the salmon-colored bricks of his farmhouse, declared too dangerous to return to. Chances of restoration are slim.

After 37 years in the house, Angelini and 13 members of his extended family live in two blue tents provided by the government. They cook on a small stove heated with a natural gas canister. Hoses from inside the house bring water. The fields, surrounded by lines of slim poplars, serve as latrines.

Foligno was where St. Francis began evangelizing the people of Umbria, and the first book in Italian was said to have been printed here - Dante’s “Divine Comedy.”

The historic center has been virtually abandoned after the two shocks on Sept. 26, which killed 10 people. The 13th-century bell tower may have to be demolished after a sharp aftershock Friday did further damage.

The daily tremors, though diminishing, cause panic and more damage to already teetering buildings.

“The near future is fear,” said surgeon Gelfrido Galizzi, 43, sitting in front of a tent in a camp on the grounds of the town’s sports complex.

Inside the 5-year-old sports arena, about 200 elderly people sleep in rows of beds. The infirm stay in the team dressing rooms. They can use the showers there.

Galizzi’s brother-in-law, Landolfo Ricciardiello, 37, a lithographer, said it would cost at least $58,000 to fix the roof of his 700-year-old apartment in a former convent.

“I’ve lost a lifetime of sacrifices,” he said.

The destruction of homes is particularly acute in a country with one of the highest percentages of home ownership in Europe. Some 4,100 homes have been declared uninhabitable. The government says 43,000 places in tents, campers and reception centers have been provided.

The next step is to provide prefabricated homes. Authorities say 1,600 are available, but that won’t be enough. It also is offering rental subsidies of $350 a month for the “terremotati,” or “earthquaked.”