MILAN (AP) — Heavy rains triggered a massive landslide early Saturday on the southern Italian resort island of Ischia that destroyed buildings and swept parked cars into the sea, causing at least one dead and up to 12 missing.
A woman’s body was pulled from the mud, Naples prefect Claudio Palomba told a news conference.
As the rain continued to fall, rescuers worked carefully with small bulldozers to shove about six to seven meters (yards) of mud and rubbish in search of possible victims. Reinforcements arrived by ferry, including sniffer dog teams to help search efforts.
The force of the mud sliding down the side of the mountain just before dawn was strong enough to send cars and buses onto the beaches and into the sea at the port of Casamicciola, at the northern end of the island, in the wide of Naples.
The island received 126 millimeters (nearly five inches) of rain in six hours, the heaviest rainfall in 20 years, officials said.
The streets were impassable and the island’s mayors urged people to stay at home. At least 100 people were reportedly stranded without power or water, and around 70 were housed in a community gymnasium.
There was early confusion over 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, while 10 to 12 were missing.
“The situation is very complicated and very serious because probably some of these people are under the mud,” Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi told state television RAI from an emergency command center in Rome.
ANSA reported that at least 10 buildings collapsed. A family with a previously missing newborn has been located and was receiving medical attention, according to the prefect of Naples.
Video from the island showed small bulldozers clearing roads, while residents used hoses to try to clear mud from their homes. A man, identified as Benjamin Iacono, told Sky TG24 that mud submerged three adjacent stores he owned, completely wiping out his inventory. He estimated the damage at between 100,000 and 150,000 euros ($104,000 to $156,000).
Firefighters and the Coast Guard were conducting search and rescue, initially hampered by high winds that prevented helicopters and boats from reaching the island.
The densely populated mountainous island is a popular tourist destination for its beaches and spas. A 4.0 magnitude earthquake on the island in 2017 killed two people, causing extensive damage to the towns of Casamicciola and nearby Lacco Ameno.