Sicilian Towns Face Bankruptcy over Etna Clean-Up Costs

Dozens of Sicilian towns are facing bankruptcy due to the cost of cleaning up the volcanic ash left by Mount Etna, which has been erupting regularly since February, The Guardian reported. The Italian government on Monday allocated €5m to compensate several villages struggling to pay to get rid of the volcanic cinders, the cost of which can reach more than €1m with every eruption. “The situation is very serious,” said Alfio Previtera, a council official in the town of Giarre, one of the villages most affected by Etna’s ash. ‘‘Streets, squares, roofs, balconies, cars – everything is covered in ash. Since March, about 25,000 tons of ash have fallen on our town. People are using umbrellas as protection.’’ According to Italian law, ash is considered special refuse, which increases the cost of its disposal to about €20 (£17) a cubic metre. “With each eruption, Etna spews tens of thousands to 200,000 cubic metres of ash,” says Boris Behncke, a volcanologist at the National Institute of Geophysics in Catania. “It’s a serious problem for municipalities.” “In order to face this emergency, several towns have amassed a vast amount of debt,’’ said Previtera. “We are facing a financial collapse.” To avoid bankrupting the villages, the senate last week approved a law that ash need no longer be considered special waste. Read more.