Ischia mudslide: Eight dead and four missing after torrents of mud sweep through Italian town

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By AFP with Euronews
Damaged tourist busess are seen on the port of Casamicciola on November 27, 2022
Damaged tourist busess are seen on the port of Casamicciola on November 27, 2022   -   Copyright  Credit: AFP

Grief, dismay and still many questions are up in the air following a landslide that left at least eight dead and four missing on the Italian island of Ischia.

A wave of mud and debris caused by heavy rain devastated the small town of Casamicciola Terme in the north of the island, situated off the coast from Naples, early Saturday morning.

The Italian press also reported that 13 people were injured.

Rescue work is still ongoing this Monday with teams having to remove tons of mud to access the interior of several houses.

Search operations have been complicated by persistent rain and strong winds, which have also delayed the arrival of reinforcements by ferry from the mainland.

Among the dead are two children and a newborn baby.

By Sunday evening, Italy's government declared a state of emergency on Ischia.

A first emergency package of €2 million was also agreed at an extraordinary government meeting on Sunday, said the Minister of Civil Protection Nello Musumeci.

But for many, the move is too little and too late. Anger has been growing among the population over the years of illegal construction that partly contributed to the disaster.

It is estimated that thousands of houses and other buildings were constructed under illegal permits on the island.

The head of the national civil protection agency told the Italian newspaper La Stampa that 94% of municipalities in the country are "at risk of flooding, landslides, or coastal erosion".

Saturday's landslide sent torrents of mud down the streets, knocking down trees and carrying away and denting vehicles, sometimes into the sea. 

It also "buried a house" and two people were rescued from a car that had been driven into the sea, the fire service said.

Casamicciola Terme, a winter resort of 8,000 people on the lush island of Ischia near Capri, suffered an earthquake in 2017 that killed two people. It had, however, been entirely destroyed by a much more powerful earthquake in the late 19th century.

Saturday's disaster came just weeks after 11 people died in floods caused by heavy rains in east-central Italy.