Five people have been killed and another six are missing after storms and torrential rain caused extensive floods in northern Italy.
By Nick Squires, The Telegraph – Rome - 26 Oct 2011
The worst affected region was Liguria, with at least two of the five World Heritage-listed 'Cinque Terre' coastal villages cut off as a result of roads being washed away.
The walking trails and picturesque fishing villages of the Cinque Terre attract hundreds of thousands of international tourists, but two of them – Vernazza and Monterosso – were severely affected as rivers of mud poured down from the hills behind them.
The mayor of Monterosso said the fishing village had all but been wiped out.
"Monterosso no longer exists," Angelo Betta told an Italian news agency.
Huge amounts of mud had swept through the tiny settlement, causing an "unimaginable disaster".
The neighbouring village of Vernazza had to be evacuated by sea, with the Coast Guard rescuing stranded foreign tourists and locals.
Three were injured and one had reportedly suffered a heart attack.
Mud slides and torrential rain closed major roads, in one case knocking a petrol tanker on its side amid a sea of debris.
Bridges were destroyed and trains blocked.
A woman died after her car was hit by a wall of water and mud in the Massa Carrara area of northern Tuscany, while three people died when a house collapsed in Liguria.
Up to 50 people were rescued from the floods by firemen in rubber dinghies.
The civil protection authority advised people in the affected areas not to leave home unless their journeys were absolutely necessary, amid fears that the volume of flood water could sweep away more vehicles.
Tuscany's regional government held a minute's silence on Wednesday for those who lost their lives in the floods.
Alberto Monaci, the president of the region, said Tuscany and Liguria had been hit by a "meteorological explosion".