CASAMICCIOLA TERME, Italy (AFP) — Italian rescuers were searching for a dozen missing people on the southern island of Ischia on Sunday after a landslide killed at least one person, as the government scheduled an emergency meeting.
A wave of mud and debris swept through the small town of Casamicciola Terme early Saturday morning, engulfing at least one house and sweeping cars down to the sea, local media and emergency services said.
Rescuers had recovered the body of a 31-year-old woman, according to Italian news agency AGI, with other local media reporting that 13 people had been injured in the incident.
About a dozen people were still unaccounted for by early Saturday evening, according to Claudio Palomba, prefect of Naples, of which the island is part.
But some people who had earlier been reported missing had since been found safe, including one family with a newborn baby, he said.
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni tweeted her sympathy to those affected, saying she had called an extraordinary cabinet meeting on Sunday to discuss the disaster.
“We are afraid that there might be other victims, but so far the current figure is one dead,” Luca Cari, a spokesman for the fire service, told AFP.
The rescue effort was hampered by rain and high winds, which also delayed ferries bringing reinforcements from the mainland.
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.
Complex rescue operation
Heavy rain sent torrents of mud through the streets of Casamicciola Terme, a settlement 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.
The fire service said earlier one house had been overwhelmed by the mud and two people had been rescued from a car that had been 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 said they expected to evacuate and find temporary homes for between 150 and 200 people by Saturday evening.
“The rescue effort remains complex due to the weather conditions,” said the department for civil protection, but it stressed teams would keep working through the night.
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.
The devastation in Ischia comes just weeks after 11 people died in heavy rain and flooding in the central Italian region of Marche.