As quake toll rises, GTA Italian communities start giving

In the wake of a devastating earthquake in Italy's central region, members of the Greater Toronto Area Italian-Canadian community rushed to contact relatives on Monday and began sending aid money back to their native country.

Italian-Canadians struggling to reach relatives by telephone

In the wake of a devastating earthquake in Italy's central region, members of the Greater Toronto Area Italian-Canadian community rushed to contact relatives on Monday and began sending aid money back to their native country.

The pre-dawn quake rocked the Abruzzo region in Italy's Apennine mountains, killing as many as 150 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless.

As residents in Toronto's Little Italy and Corso Italia neighbourhoods tuned their televisions to Italian news channels to hear the latest updates, many with roots in the region had difficulty reaching relatives by telephone.

Those who did get in touch with loved ones said they spoke of minor tremors in the last few days.

"It's just devastating when you know family there dying under the debris," said Eva Paolucci, whose relatives live about an hour's drive from where the quake struck and were unharmed.

"Sometimes it's a relief when you think it's not in your family, but you feel bad the same because we are from the same country. Nobody likes to hear such news."

'We just hope they are safe'

Ivana Fracasso, president of the Canadian Abruzzo Federation, told CBC News fundraising drives are expected to start in the coming days.

"Right now we are just emotional, that's all," she said. "There is nothing we can do right now."

Francesco Riondino, manager of Toronto's Italian Credit Savings and Credit Union, said donations started coming on Monday morning as his credit union's mobile unit went to homes across the GTA.

Riondino said donations are being accepted at the Italian Credit Savings and Credit Union's three GTA branches:

  • 53 Woodbridge Ave. in Woodbridge.
  • 2900 Dufferin St. in Toronto.
  • 1254 St. Clair Ave. West in Toronto.

The credit union will consult with Fracasso's organization on how best to spend the money, he added.

Businesses in Toronto's Italian neighbourhood have a history of coming together to raise money for other causes and past natural disasters, said Livio Balzamo, owner of Il Centro del Formaggio deli on College Street.

But for now, the community is just worried about people in the region, Balzamo said.

"We just hope they are safe," he said.