Italy: At least 7 dead after Ischia landslide
Rome, Nov 28: At least seven people were killed on the southern Italian holiday island of Ischia after a landslide caused by torrential rain devastated a small town, an official said on Sunday.
A newborn baby and two children were also among the dead, Naples prefect Claudio Palomba told a news conference, adding that five people were still missing.
Dozens of emergency workers rushed to the island while rescue divers searched the waters off the coast, he said.
Firefighters said the mud was 20 feet (6 meters) deep in some places.
"Mud and water tend to fill every space,'' fire service spokesperson Luca Cari, told RAI state TV, adding that the search was "difficult."
"Our biggest hope is that people identified as missing have found refuge with relatives and friends" and have not left information about their location, he said.
A #Ischia da oltre 24 ore soccorritori, volontari e tecnici lavorano per cercare i dispersi, riaprire le strade, raggiungere le zone isolate e assistere gli sfollati. Sull'isola è in corso il sopralluogo di Curcio per seguire l'azione di risposta all'emergenza#27novembre h10 pic.twitter.com/LTl1lQByzk— Dipartimento Protezione Civile (@DPCgov) November 27, 2022
The mayor of the town of Lacco Ameno told Italian state television that rescue teams were continuing their search with "broken hearts" since children were missing.
Authorities in Naples prefecture were coordinating with local rescue efforts, with an official from the prefecture reporting that some 167 people had been taken to vacant hotel rooms. Many people have been left homeless by the events.
Some 150 firefighters and another 220 police officials had been deployed on-site to assist with evacuation efforts as well.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni held a cabinet meeting on Sunday and issued a decree aimed at providing swift help to people in need following the disaster.
The decree earmarked an initial aid package of €2 million ($2.08 million) and contemplated a suspension of tax payments for residents until the end of the year.
"The government expresses its closeness to the citizens, mayors and towns of the island of Ischia, and thanks the rescue workers searching for the victims," Meloni said in a statement.
Rains and landslide wreak havoc on holiday island
Heavy rains triggered the landslides on Ischia on Saturday, with destructive waves of mud sliding down a hill in the small town of Casamicciola Terme.
The landslide engulfed at least one house and swept cars down to the sea, emergency services said.
The Ischia fire service said that at least one house had been buried under the mud and that two people were rescued from a car swept into the sea.
Palomba, the prefect of Naples, said Saturday that the body of a woman had been pulled from the mud.
Rescue crews continued their search Saturday and Sunday for victims and survivors, using small bulldozers to sift through the thick mud. Two people were rescued from a car that was swept out to sea.
Additional emergency crews arrived by ferry later on Saturday, including teams of sniffer dogs. Officials on the island urged residents to stay at home, as many streets were impassable.
Rescue efforts amid the storm
Ischia is a volcanic island which lies some 30 kilometers (19 miles) from Naples. It draws visitors to its thermal baths and picturesque coastline.
The landslides were triggered by intense rains that were the heaviest the island had seen in 20 years. Within six hours, it received 126 milimeters (nearly five inches) of rain.
The heavy rains continued throughout Saturday, making rescue efforts difficult and delaying the arrival of rescue reinforcements. On Sunday, conditions began to improve.