Milan – Torrential rain caused a massive landslide early Saturday morning in the southern Italian resort island of Ischia that destroyed buildings and swept parked cars into the sea, killing at least one person and leaving up to 12 missing. Naples Governor Claudio Palomba said at a conference A journalist reported that a woman’s body was pulled out of the mud.
As the rain continued, rescuers were working cautiously with small bulldozers to sift through mud and debris as deep as seven yards in places, looking for possible victims. Reinforcements arrived by ferry, including teams of sniffer dogs, to assist in the search effort.
The force of the mud sliding down the mountainside just before dawn was strong enough to send cars and buses onto the beaches and into the sea at the port of Casamicciola, on the northern tip of the island, which is off Naples.
The island received nearly five inches of rain in six hours, the most in 20 years, according to officials.
The streets were impassable and the island’s mayors urged people to stay home. At least 100 people were reported stranded without electricity and water, and about 70 were sheltered in a community gymnasium.
There was early confusion about the death toll. Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini initially said eight people had been confirmed dead, followed by the Interior Minister saying no deaths had been confirmed yet, while 10 to 12 people were missing.
“The situation is very complicated and very dangerous because maybe some of these people are under the mud,” Interior Minister Matteo Biantidossi told RAI state television from the emergency command center in Rome.
The Italian news agency ANSA reported that at least 10 buildings had collapsed. A family with a previously reported newborn has been located and is receiving medical care, according to the Prefect of Naples.
A video from the island showed small bulldozers opening roads, while residents used hoses to try to get mud out of their homes. A man, Benjamin Iacono, told Sky TG24 that mud had flooded three nearby shops he owned, wiping out his entire stock. He estimated the damages at between 100,000 and 150,000 euros ($104,000 to $156,000).
Firefighters and the Coast Guard were conducting a search and rescue operation, which was initially hampered by strong winds that prevented helicopters and boats from reaching the island.
The densely populated, mountainous island is a popular tourist destination for both its beaches and spas. A 4.0-magnitude earthquake on the island in 2017 killed two people, and caused significant damage to the neighboring towns of Casamicciola and Laco Amino.
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