Volunteer bikers scour the Italian mountains for victims of the deadly earthquake who are stranded in places inaccessible to other rescuers.
Volunteer bikers scour Italy’s trails for quake survivors
: Angels on two wheels scour Italy trails for quake survivors Amatrice (Italy) – 25 August 2016 14:32 – AFP (Ljubomir MILASIN) / SCENE They are angels without wings who come on two wheels, scouring the Italian mountains for victims of the deadly earthquake who are stranded in places inaccessible to other rescuers.They are a group of dirt bike riders, all volunteers, who have spent the last 36 hours flying along the trails and pathways that criss-cross this devastated area in search of those in need of help — be it food, medicine or even just news. With the death toll nearing 250 following Wednesday’s powerful pre-dawn quake, there are fears that many more remain buried in the rubble of a string of devastated mountain villages. Bending over a detailed Ordnance Survey map, the bikers ponder their options. “You take that area, you just need to check it and if there are any problems or needs, let me know,” says 56-year-old Mario Menicocci, who is supervising the group. Originally from Venice, Menicocci lives in central Italy where for nearly 15 years, he has run a group of volunteer bikers. “For me, it was quite obvious — using dirt bikes which have few limits, or none at all, and using them for a good cause,” he tells AFP. “The group began in 2002 with the support of the local civil defence and since then, we’ve helped out many times, including during the L’Aquila quake,” he says of the 2009 quake which killed more than 300 people. “When traffic is blocked, we can get through most of the time. A rockslide blocking a road? We get round it. A collapsed bridge? We cross the river” — as long as it’s not too deep.Coordinated by the civil defence, their task is to check areas where other vehicles cannot reach and if there is a need, to take in medication, food or communication equipment. Menicocci, who is a dirt bike instructor, says he and his fellow bikers have a 70 percent chance of getting through where other vehicles can’t. – Helping the Red Cross -“We took food to an elderly man of 80 who was alone in his house in the hills. He was so happy that he tried to give us books,” says Ugo Filosa, one of the volunteers. “On the way back, the Red Cross stopped me and asked me to urgently deliver some medication,” he says. Giuseppe Vidi, a 70-year-old from Perugia, didn’t hesitate to hop on his bike and offer to help. “Since the earthquake in Assisi, I turn up every time to offer my help,” he says, referring to one of two quakes which hit central and eastern Italy in 1997, killing 12. Others involved in the search are Emiliano and Pierluigi, both members of the local motorcycle club. “We live near here, we felt the quake and we came to offer our help,” says Pierluigi. “It’s normal. It’s our region.” On Wednesday, there were 12 volunteers helping out.Their numbers dropped to seven on Thursday although scores or even hundreds of others have offered to come and help, with many hearing about the venture through a Facebook page specially set up for the purpose. There are so many that Menicocci is struggling to rein in their enthusiasm. “No, don’t turn up now but be ready because there could be another strong tremor and who knows,” he tells someone on the other end of the phone, for the umpteenth time..