18 dead, 35 missing, 79 injured, and 400 homeless. A state of emergency has been declared in Messina in Sicily following Thursday night’s biblical downpour, in which 25 centimetres of rain fell in just three hours.
People are furious. Just one storm caused such devastation, but they are not blaming the skies. Many are convinced this was a man-made disaster. “There is a situation of widespread hydro-geological instability and that’s mainly because of unauthorised buildings in the Messina area, and many others in Italy. A serious plan is needed, rather than massive prestige projects, to invest in the safety of these zones, or other disasters will happen,” said President Napolitano, who toured the area. The president’s reference to prestige projects was a dig at Silvio Berlusconi’s promised 10-billion euro bridge linking Sicily with the mainland. “This was a tragedy waiting to happen. Last year they tried to stabilise the hill with nets, but politicians have more important fish to fry, and maybe here there was nothing in it for them,” said one local man. In certain places seven metres of mud has been deposited. The clean-up will take a long time, but cleaning up Italy’s anarchic planning permission practices may take longer.