Rescuers dug through mud for a second day 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 six meters (20 feet) 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.
“We are continuing the search with our hearts broken, because among the missing are also minors,” Giacomo Pascale, the mayor of the neighboring town of Lacco Ameno, told RAI state TV.
The massive landslide before dawn on Saturday was triggered by exceptional rainfall, and sent a mass of mud and debris hurtling down a mountainside toward the port of Casamicciola, collapsing buildings and sweeping vehicles into the sea. By Sunday, 164 people were left homeless by the events.
One widely circulated video showed a man, covered with mud, clinging to a shutter, chest-deep in muddy water.
The island received 126 millimeters (nearly five inches) of rain in six hours, the heaviest rainfall in 20 years, according to officials. Experts said the disaster was exacerbated by building in areas of high risk on the mountainous island.
“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,” geologist Riccardo Caniparoli told RAI. “There are norms and laws that were not respected.”
Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni convened a Cabinet meeting for later 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,” Meloni said in a statement.