Italy Earthquake: A Workingman's Night-Shift Tragedy

Compared to some other natural disasters in recent years, the death toll of seven may pale in comparison. But then we hear the individual tales of the earthquake that struck northern Italy, and the sorrow quickly mounts. Here are their stories.

What remains (Il Fatto Quotidiano)
What remains (Il Fatto Quotidiano)
Pierangelo Sapegno

SANT'AGOSTINO - Bruno Cavicchi says that he woke up at 4:04 a.m. on Sunday to a "horrible noise." It was a magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocking northern Italy. That noise might have been the last sound that Bruno's son would ever hear. Nicola Cavicchi was one of the four night-shift workers killed by the quake when their factory ceilings collapsed on them.

The terrible noise that woke Bruno Cavicchi and people across Emilia-Romagna, Veneto, Lombardia, and Tuscany regions, came from the bowels of the earth. The earthquake killed seven in the hardworking terrain of the Po Valley, dotted by warehouses, small factories, farms, and out-of-the-way villages. Four of the victims were workers killed by collapses inside their factories. Among the other victims were Gabi Ehsemann, 37, a German woman who was in Bologna for work, and Anna Abeti, 86, who suffered a heart attack. The oldest victim, 103-year-old Nerina Balboni, was killed when her home's roof collapsed.

Their individual fates tell the story of a region's tragedy. A union man dies instead of someone else. A worker close to retiring, who still worked the overnight shift, never makes it to retirment. An immigrant worker who'd dreamed to bring his wife to this foggy slice of Italy. Their sad destinies reveal the industriousness of this land, the way people here lift themselves up, and always lend a hand to others.

There are the stories of the victims, and the stories of the survivors, with the despair of what can never be recovered and who they'll never see again. The earthquake "is gone, but it took away friends," says the priest of the village of Sant'Agostino, where three men were killed and the town hall is in ruins.

Truth is that the earthquake is not gone yet. Aftershocks continued to be felt on Sunday and Monday morning. And the deaths on the work place, if possible, are even more painful. The 60-year-old Gerardo Cesaro, close to retirement, worked at Tecopress, a maker of aluminium car parts in Dosso, near Sant" Agostino. His shift was due to end at 5 a.m.. At 4 a.m. Cesaro was working with a 35-year-old Pakistani man, who was ready to throw himself under a large piece of machinary when he felt the trembles. He lost a finger, which was cut off by the blade of the equipment, but he managed to save himself. Cesaro disappeared. He was found on Sunday at noon, under the rubble.

A last-minute schedule change

By then, the corpses of three other workers had been recovered. A falling beam killed 35-year-old Nicola Cavicchi, and 50-year-old Leonardo Ansaloni in a ceramic factory of the company Ceramica Sant'Agostino. Cavicchi hadn't been scheduled to do the night shift. He was called while having dinner with his mother, in order to cover for a colleague who was sick. "It's ok. Anyway it's raining," he said.

On Sunday, among the ruins of the warehouses, Ceramica colleagues were crying, and the union representative, Vittorio Battaglia, kept saying the he could not believe it. "It's like living a nightmare," Battaglia said. The others kept just crying and hugging each other.

The workers of these small warehouses are like a big family, spread across the Po Valley, which now look like a war zone. Driving along the local highway, bordered by poplars, you could see ruins, destruction, and workers with their heads hidden in their hands. The earthquake did not move the trees, but it made some of the warehouses crack in half.

"Seeing new buildings such as these warehouses collapse for an earthquake, which was strong, but not exceptionally strong, is not acceptable in a modern society," said Stefano Gresta, president of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology.

In one of these warehouses, the earthquake took the life of Tarik Naouch. The 29-year-old Moroccan man, was working in the town of Ponte Rodoni di Bondena, in the polystyrene factory Ursa. A falling concrete shaft killed him. Naouch's father said they had been in Italy since 1990 -- working different jobs -- and that his son was waiting for his wife to finally arrive from Morocco to join him.

Read more from La Stampa in Italian

Photo - Il Fatto Quotidiano

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Running of the Bulls in Tafalla, northern Spain

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Здравейте!*

Welcome to Monday, where an apparent coup is underway in Sudan, Colombia's most-wanted drug lord gets caught, and Michael Jordan's rookie sneakers score an auction record. We also focus on a report that the Thai government is abusing the country's centuries-old law to protect the monarchy from criticism (lèse-majesté) to target pro-democracy activists and protesters.

[*Zdraveite - Bulgarian]


• Developing: Sudan leaders arrested amid military coup reports: Soldiers have arrested several members of Sudan's transitional government as well as civilian leaders, and Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok has reportedly been put under house arrest, in what the information ministry called a military coup. Pro-democracy protesters have taken to the streets of the capital city Khartoum where there are reports of gunfire and clashes.

• Colombia's most wanted drug lord to be sent to U.S.: Colombia's most dangerous drug trafficker, known as Otoniel, was caught after a joint army, air force and police operation and faces extradition to the U.S. He led the country's largest criminal gang, and was on the U.S. most wanted list for years.

• Xi speech marks China's UN anniversary: China's President Xi Jinping marked the 50th anniversary of Beijing's entry into the United Nations with a speech calling for greater global cooperation, adding that issues like climate change, terrorism and cyber security needed multilateral solutions. Taiwan was not mentioned.

• German ISIS bride jailed for crimes against humanity: A German court has sentenced a German woman and former member of the Islamic State to 10 years in prison for letting a 5-year-old Yazidi enslaved girl die of thirst in Iraq. The case is one of the world's first trials to prosecute a war crime against the Yazidis.

• COVID update: The Beijing marathon scheduled next weekend has been postponed until further notice as China seeks to stamp out Delta variant outbreak and return to zero cases ahead of the Winter Olympics next February. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases in Eastern Europe have surpassed the 20 million mark as the region fights against its worst outbreak since the pandemic started and vaccination efforts lag.

Goodbye, Gunther: U.S. actor James Michael Tyler, best known for his role as the barista Gunther on the TV show Friends, has died at 59 of prostate cancer.

• Sneakers record: A pair of Michael Jordan's white-and-red Nike shoes, which he wore during his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls in 1984, sold for $1.47 million — a new record price for sneakers at auction.


"The end of a boss," titles Colombian daily El Espectador, reporting on the arrest of drug lord Dairo Antonio Usuga, known as Otoniel, who had led Colombia's largest criminal gang and had been on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's most wanted list for years. He was captured in a raid and will be extradited to the U.S.



A Georgia man is being prosecuted for wire fraud after spending most of his business's COVID relief loan to buy one Pokémon trading card for $57,789.


How Thailand's "Lèse-Majesté" law is used to stifle all protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

👑 Thailand's Criminal Code "Lèse-Majesté" Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family. But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

🚨 The recent report "Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand," documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations." The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

💻 The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them. Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind.

➡️


"Children are going to die. People are going to starve."

— The United Nations warns that Afghanistan verges on a "total breakdown" as millions of Afghans, including children, could die of starvation unless urgent action is taken by the international community. The agency calls for the release of frozen assets to avoid economic and social collapse, despite concerns over the Taliban government. A recent report said that about 97% of Afghanistan's population may sink below the poverty line, and World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley warned that more than half of Afghanistan's population of 39 million were facing acute food insecurity and "marching to starvation" in comparison to 14 million two months ago.


Dutch cities have been secretly probing mosques since 2013

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talked to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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