Italian rescuers search for missing after island landslide

Italian rescuers search for missing after island landslide
A number of children are among the missing after heavy rain triggered a landslide on the Italian island of Ischia (Salvatore Laporta/AP)

Rescuers were digging through mud for a second day on Sunday in the search for people lost in an enormous landslide on the Italian resort island of Ischia.

One body was recovered on Saturday and about a dozen people, including children, were reported missing in the port town of Casamicciola, feared buried under mud and debris that firefighters said was 20ft (6m) deep in some places.

Small bulldozers were being used to clear debris, and Italian media said digging was continuing by hand in some places and that teams of divers had been brought in.

A digger removes mud from a flooded road in Casamicciola, on the southern Italian island of Ischia (Salvatore Laporta/AP)

Giacomo Pascale, the mayor of the neighbouring town of Lacco Ameno, told RAI state TV: “We are continuing the search with our hearts broken, because among the missing are also minors.”

The massive landslide before dawn on Saturday was triggered by exceptional rainfall, and sent a mass of mud and debris hurtling down a mountainside towards the port of Casamicciola, collapsing buildings and sweeping vehicles into the sea.

By Sunday, 164 people had been left homeless.

One widely circulated video showed a man, covered with mud, clinging to a shutter, chest-deep in muddy water.

The island received 126mm (nearly 5in) of rain in six hours, the heaviest rainfall in 20 years, according to officials.

Houses were damaged by a landslide following heavy rain in Casamicciola, Ischia (Salvatore Laporta/AP)

Experts said the disaster was exacerbated by building in areas of high risk on the mountainous island.

Geologist Riccardo Caniparoli told RAI: “There is territory that cannot be occupied. You cannot change the use of a zone where there is water. The course of the water created this disaster.”

He added: “There are norms and laws that were not respected.”

Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni convened a Cabinet meeting for later on Sunday to declare a state of emergency on the island.

“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,” she said in a statement.

The government earmarked two million euros (£1.7 million) for the rescue and to restore public services.

Pope Francis expressed his closeness to the people of Ischia during the traditional Sunday blessing in St Peter’s Square.

“I am praying for the victims, for those who are suffering and for those who are involved in the rescue,” he said.

The island previously suffered a 4.0-magnitude earthquake in 2017 that killed two and injured more than 40 in Casamicciola and Lacco Ameno.

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