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In Italy, earthquake survivors struggle to make a tent city feel like home

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Mr. Berlusconi has said the spartan nature of the accommodations is more in keeping with the difficult economic times. He's also hoping the attention on the devastated ancient city will help raise money to cover the estimated $10 billion in damages.

Despite a history of earthquake activity going back to the 14th century, fewer than 5 percent of the buildings were insured for earthquake damage.

Life in a tent city

The decision to move the international summit was applauded by many here in this makeshift camp. It is one of more than 170 such camps, set up by Italy's Civil Protection agency, that surround the outskirts of the old walled city.

Gigliola Mastropietro and her family have been here since the morning of the quake. She says the international attention gives her a sense of solidarity and hope.

Sitting outside one of the long rows of tents with her disabled mother, Irma Cerrone, and toddler daughter, Jessica, Ms. Mastropietro says they are living in a kind of limbo "in the hands of Civil Protection."

The laboratory where her husband worked with marble and other types of stone was so damaged that it is closed indefinitely.

The top floor of their home, which is about a mile outside of L'Aquila in the hills, crumbled into the floors below. The police and fire brigades have allowed her to see it once, but now it is strictly off limits.

"At the moment, you can't go near the house. We have to wait for other checks to see if it can be rebuilt," she says.

The dislocation has taken a toll on the family. Jessica, the toddler, was walking and talking before the quake hit. Now, she does neither.

Irma, the grandmother, suffers from the heat. The blue tents magnify the sun, so she spends much of the day sitting outside in her wheelchair in what little shade she can find.

The temperatures, which can vary from very hot during the day to cold at night, are problems the camp officials are well aware of.

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