Italian-Canadians react to deadly earthquake


TORONTO – The Canadian-Italian community is mobilizing to help after a deadly earthquake in central Italy killed at least 120 people and left thousands homeless on Wednesday

The 6.2-magnitude quake struck at 3:36 a.m. and reduced three towns in central Italy to rubble.

Bob Sacco, president of the National Federation of Canadian Italian Business and Professional Associations, says that while it’s still early, his organization is looking at options to support recovery efforts.

“I got a lot of calls from our chapters in Montreal and various chapters across Canada that basically said, ‘How can we help?’ The first step is really to figure out who the right people are to have an idea and do an effective plan,” he said.

Sacco was previously involved with fundraising after a powerful 2009 earthquake in Italy’s Abruzzo region, which killed more than 300 people. At that time, the Abruzzo Earthquake Relief Fund was established, raising $2 million for a new medical research facility at the University of L’Aquila, in one of the towns hit hardest by the earthquake. Another $400,000 was donated to the Red Cross.

“The Italian community stepped up to the plate when that happened there and I’m sure they’ll do that this time as well,” Sacco said.

He added that his organization will likely follow a similar plan to raise money for the towns affected by the recent earthquake. But for now, he said rescue efforts are most important.

“Some of those towns, they go back thousands of years with churches and architects. That’s part of that rebuilding process — how you recapture what’s lost,” he said. “But first of all you have to make sure everybody’s safe.”

Corso Italia BIA co-ordinator Deborah Annibalini said many members of her husband’s family live in the Le Marche region, close to where the earthquake hit.

After checking in with them Wednesday morning, she said everyone seems to be safe.

“They thought it was really scary when it happened, but we didn’t get into too much,” she said. “We just wanted to make sure everybody was okay.”

She said the BIA doesn’t yet have fundraising plans, but she expected to discuss ways they might help with the BIA chair.