Berlusconi in 'camping holiday' gaffe


Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi appears to have made a gaffe while visiting the scene of Monday’s earthquake that claimed more than 250 lives and left 17,000 homeless.

Some 20 tent camps and 16 field kitchens to house and feed people were set up after Mr Berlusconi declared a national emergency and sent troops to the area.

Speaking to German television station N-TV today, Mr Berlusconi is reported to have said of those in the camps: “They have everything they need, they have medical care, hot food... Of course, their current lodgings are a bit temporary. But they should see it like a weekend of camping."

Mr Berlusconi, turning down most foreign aid offers, has taken a typically hands-on approach, travelling to the disaster zone every day so far and promising survivors rapid help. Pollsters say this could further boost his already high popularity rating.

Mr Berlusconi vowed to build a whole new town near L'Aquila and Agriculture Minister Luca Zaia, visiting Onna, urged Italians to help the region's economy "by thinking of them when the holiday season begins and principally buying products from Abruzzo".

The survivors face a grim Easter weekend. With many local churches badly damaged, people prepared to celebrate the feast in makeshift chapels in the tent villages.