CASAMICCIOLA TERME, (Italy): Italian rescuers were searching for a dozen missing people on the southern island of Ischia on Sunday after a landslide killed at least one and the government declared a state of emergency.
A wave of mud and debris crashed through the small town of Casamicciola Terme on Saturday morning, engulfing at least one house and sweeping cars down to the sea, local media and emergency services said.
A first tranche of two million euros ($2 million) of relief funds was released at the end of an emergency cabinet meeting which declared the state of emergency, said Minister for Civil Protection Nello Musumeci.
More than 200 rescuers were still searching for a dozen missing people, while hundreds of volunteers and others, up to their knees in mud, were busy cleaning the town’s streets.
Rescuers had recovered the body of a 31-year-old woman, according to Italian news agency AGI, with other local media reporting 13 people had been injured.
The rescue effort was hampered by rain and high winds, which also delayed ferries bringing reinforcements from the mainland.
“It’s a situation that hurts us, if only for the people who disappeared under the mountain. Here it’s an island and even if we don’t really know everyone, it’s almost that,” Salvatore Lorini, 45, told AFP.
“The mountain came down, there was devastation of shops, cars, hotels and that was already happening nine years ago. Now I am cleaning my mother-in-law’s shop,” he said.
Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi had earlier warned there were people trapped in the mud, saying it was a “very serious” situation.
However, he denied a statement by his colleague Matteo Salvini, the deputy prime minister and infrastructure minister, that eight people had died, saying this had not been confirmed.
Heavy rain sent torrents of mud through the streets of Casamicciola Terme, a spa resort of 8,000 inhabitants on the north of Ischia, a lush island near Capri that is thronged with tourists in summer. Trees were upturned and cars left battered on the side of the road or in the water, according to AFP journalists.
Boulders were scattered around as excavators sought to free up access to homes, cars and shops.
The fire service said earlier one house had been swamped by the mud and two people had been rescued from a car swept into the sea.
In the worst-affected area of the town, at least 30 families were trapped in their homes without water or electricity, with mud and debris blocking the road, ANSA news agency reported.
Officials had said they expected to evacuate and find temporary homes for between 150 and 200 people. Local authorities called on residents of Ischia to stay inside to avoid hindering the rescue operation. Casamicciola Terme was hit by an earthquake in 2017, in which two people died. It was completely destroyed by a much more powerful earthquake at the end of the 19th century.