The death toll from a mudslide on the Italian island of Ischia has now risen to seven.
A wave of mud and debris caused by heavy rainfall devastated the small town of Casamicciola Terme in the north of the island, off the coast of Naples, early Saturday morning.
On Sunday evening, the Italian government declared a state of emergency on Ischia, with five people still missing.
Earlier, search teams recovered the body of a young girl from her childhood home while digging through the mud for the second day.
The Italian press also reported that 13 people were injured.
Some of the people initially reported missing were eventually found safe, including a family with a newborn baby, Naples prefect said.
Search operations were hampered by persistent rain and high winds, which also delayed the arrival of reinforcements by ferry from the mainland.
More than 200 aid workers joined the search for the missing, while hundreds of volunteers, knee-deep in mud, cleared the streets of the small town.
The remains of cars and buses crushed by the violent mudslide and rockslide can be seen everywhere as excavators try to clear access to homes, cars and shops.
An initial €2 million emergency package was also agreed at an extraordinary government meeting on Sunday, Civil Protection Minister Nello Musumeci said.
Saturday’s landslide sent mudslides through the streets, toppling trees and dragging and crushing vehicles, sometimes into the sea. It also “buried a house” and two people were rescued from a car that had driven into the sea, the fire service said.
Rescue services planned to evacuate 150 to 200 people to temporary accommodation, and local authorities called on islanders to remain in their homes so as not to hinder rescue operations.
Some experts have questioned a high rate of urbanization and a lack of planning constraints.
“In Ischia, there is an urbanization that has affected and devastated the whole area,” Tommaso Moramarco, director of the Institute for Research and Hydrogeological Protection, told AGI news agency.
“When the island entered the period of mass tourism, the growth of infrastructure was exponential, smothering all the natural elements of the area and covering everything with cement,” denounced geologist Mario Tozzi in La Stampa, recalling the existence of tens of thousands of abusive constructions in Ischia.
Casamicciola Terme, a winter resort of 8,000 on the lush island of Ischia near Capri, was hit by an earthquake in 2017 that killed two people. However, it was completely destroyed by a much more powerful earthquake in the late 19th century.
Saturday’s disaster came just weeks after 11 people died in flooding caused by heavy rains in east-central Italy.