An investigation has been opened in Italy into whether floods that devastated a World Heritage-listed coastline were the fault of official negligence and illegal building.
The flooding and mudslides, which killed seven people in Liguria and neighbouring Tuscany, were caused by 20 inches of torrential rain falling in just a few hours on
By Nick Squires, Rome – The Telegraph - 28 Oct 2011
Rivers of muddy water poured into the narrow cobbled streets and piazzas of the five villages known as the Cinque Terre ('Five Lands'), on a spectacular stretch of the coast of Liguria, earlier this week .
The tiny ports of Vernazza and Monterosso, which attract hundreds of thousands of tourists a year, were swamped by hundreds of tonnes of debris and mud.
The flooding and mudslides, which killed seven people in Liguria and neighbouring Tuscany, were caused by 20 inches of torrential rain falling in just a few hours on Tuesday and Wednesday.
But environmentalists said its impact was made much worse by unchecked construction along the coastline, which lies east of Genoa.
"Italian citizens are having to pay the price for ... overbuilding authorised in at-risk areas," the environmental group WWF Italia said.
Prosecutors announced that they had opened investigations into allegations that the deaths and damage were the result of negligence by local authorities.
During a cabinet meeting on Friday, the government in Rome declared a state of emergency for the region and released 65 million euros for the clean-up operation.
Around 500 soldiers were drafted in to help with clearance efforts and to search for people still listed as missing, amid fears that the death toll could rise.
The floods washed away roads and closed the railway line which connects the five villages, meaning they could only be reached by sea.
Cars were piled on top of each other by the force of the water, locals and tourists had to be evacuated by sea, and villages were left without gas, electricity and water.
Renata Briano, a local official, said Vernazza had been hit by "a mountain of mud".
After flying over the area in a helicopter, Altero Mattioli, the infrastructure minister, said: "When I was environment minister I saw many disasters, but nothing like this. The situation is very difficult." Police divers located a car that had been swept into the sea but there was no word last night on whether there were bodies inside.