Several hiking groups were caught by a torrential deluge in the Raganello river gorge in southern Cosenza province on Monday afternoon. The sudden heavy rains caused the river in the Pollino National Park to flood.
Five people were still missing on Tuesday morning, while 14 had been rescued, Italy's fire department tweeted. Later reports said that three missing hikers had since been found alive.
#Castrovillari (CS), sono proseguite per tutta la notte le ricerche di dispersi sul torrente #Raganello, sono 5 al momento quelli segnalati. Il bilancio è di 10 persone decedute, mentre 14 sono state salvate dai #vigilidelfuoco. Nel video uno dei recuperi fatti ieri da #dragovf pic.twitter.com/8cVakvtMfP
— Vigili del Fuoco (@emergenzavvf) August 21, 2018
A statement from the prefecture of Cosenza, in the southern region of Calabria, said there were two groups of 18 hikers at the site.
Italian media identified those killed as six women and four men from different parts of Italy, ranging in age from 27 to 55. One man, a local guide in his early 30s, was named as one of the volunteers who helped rescue stranded holidaymakers from the deadly Rigopiano avalanche in central Italy in January 2017.
Rescuers recover a body. Photo: Kontrolab/AFP
Powerful lights were being used to help rescuers work under cover of darkness, regional civil protection chief Carlo Tansi said. Water rescuers, divers and helicopters from the fire department are involved in the search and rescue operations.
A Dutch hiker, quoted in local media, said: “A real avalanche of water came unexpectedly. We did not have time to do anything. I was lucky, it was an incredible thing.”
Searching the flooded Raganello river. Photo: Kontrolab/AFP
Earlier on Monday the region experienced several hours of heavy rain and strong winds. Though conditions improved overnight, authorities have warned there is a possibility of storms on Tuesday as well.
The dramatic gorges carved by the Raganello river are only recommended for experienced hikers due to the many challenges posed by the route, which at certain times of the year is rendered off limits, the AGI news agency reported.
Yet locals told Rai News that it wasn't unusual to see people attempting to tackle the hike in flipflops and beachwear, saying that the deaths were “a tragedy waiting to happen”.
Those concerned about people missing or injured in the disaster can call an official information hotline: +39(0)984 8980651.