“The experts tell us that it isn't possible to stop the landslide in any way,” a representative for the Civitella del Tronto town hall told The Local on Thursday. “The damaged houses will no longer be fit for use, and are probably destined to collapse.”
Several buildings have already collapsed or sustained severe damage in the landslide in the hamlet of Ponzano in Teramo. It has been moving at a rate of about one metre each day since February 12th.
So far, 35 homes and a total of 120 people have been evacuated. After having to leave their houses within minutes, the residents are staying at local hotels or with friends and family members.
The hill is slowly being sliced in half, and Ponzano, home to around 200 people in total, is at risk.
“Experts from the National Research Council and Civil Protection Agency have told us that this is a paleo landslide, caused by the combined effect of various earthquakes in the area and heavy snowfall,” the town hall representative said. “Accumulations of two metres of snow melted very quickly because of high temperatures, which led to masses of water in the soil.”
Photo: Comune di Civitella del Tronto
“The situation is growing more dramatic every day, but unfortunately we cannot do anything for now, because we can't have an intervention before there are technical certainties,” mayor Cristina Di Pietro told local paper Il Centro.
“But the people here are desperate and we must do everything possible to give answers as quickly as possible,” she added.
On her Facebook page, Di Pietro shared the story of a local boy whose friends and relatives had been evacuated from their house. He asked his father if they could attach balloons to the endangered houses in order to save them, a method used by the protagonist of the animated Disney-Pixar film Up.
Italy's Civil Protection Department and National Research Council have set up monitors in the village to track the movement, while firefighters are in place to help villagers recover belongings from their abandoned homes.
The local health authority has also sent teams of psychologists to assist evacuated people.
Video footage from fire fighters' drones, below, shows huge cracks opening up in the ground, hillside, and walls of buildings.
“Government, where are you?” asked radio producer Adele Constantini on Facebook. “A landslide of thirty hectares is wiping out a village. 120 people had to leave their homes in a matter of minutes. Do not leave them alone!”
Giulio Cesare Sottanelli, Secretary of Italy's Chamber of Deputies, has called for immediate intervention and assistance for those affected by the landslide.
Environment Minister Gian Luca Galletti said that about 230 interventions had been carried out in the area and that a local control unit was in place.
“The Ministry undertakes to start a dialogue immediately with the region, to identify financial resources and work out the steps needed,” said Galletti.
Abruzzo is already under a regional state of emergency, which was put in place after last year's series of earthquakes and extended earlier this month due to further earthquakes, combined with extreme bad weather, in January.