Five missing as 'tsunami of mud' floods Italian town

Five missing as 'tsunami of mud' floods Italian town
A car of the Italian Vigili del Fuoco fire and rescue service. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

Five people are reported missing in Bardonecchia, in the north-western region of Piedmont, where a sudden flood caused by a landslide submerged the town in mud.


The search for the five missing people resumed at 7am Monday in Bardonecchia, in the Val di Susa region, a few kilometres from the French border.

Around 50 of the fire brigade, including divers, are searching the section of the river that flooded on Sunday evening, the Vigili del Fuoco confirmed.


Authorities posted that they were continuing to look for missing people and to remove debris from the roads.

Rescue teams had already saved six people, who were stuck in a camper van, dragged downstream by the flow of water, mud and rubbish, rescue teams stated on Monday morning.

The Rio Merdovine broke its banks Sunday evening following a landslide at altitude, completely covering cars and submerging streets in wreckage, according to Italian media reports and video footage from social media.

In videos posted online, some people can be seen fleeing while a wave of mud gushes in behind them, pushing over buildings and trees. One person has been injured.

"Run away, go away," some residents said to those who were in the area, reported the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero.

In other videos and photos, the flood of the Frejus basin is seen dragging away cars in what's been described as a 'tsunami of mud' in Italian media reports.


The mudslide overwhelmed everything in its path, sweeping away traffic signs, cars and even bus shelters.

About 120 people spent the night as evacuees, unable to return to their homes sunk in mud.

The Red Cross set up temporary accommodation for those affected inside the town's sports hall.

Meanwhile, the local police station was found to be unfit for use and with serious damage to the ground floor.

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Many bridges are still not passable, while access to the built-up area of Bardonecchia remains impossible, except for rescue vehicles.

One of the town's bridges was swept away by the sudden flood, now buried in mud and detritus, while another has lost its supporting foundations.

The landslide in Val di Susa has also  "temporarily closed" State Road 335 in both directions in Bardonecchia, Italian road maintenance firm Anas stated.

"Anas teams and the police have intervened on-site to manage the road system, to allow normal traffic to be restored as quickly as possible," it added.

The town's authorities reported on Facebook the possibility of water, electricity and gas supply disruptions in the town "following the flooding of the Frejus river".

"Rescue teams and technicians have been working since yesterday evening to try to restore normal conditions as soon as possible. The gas supply has been interrupted to avoid potentially dangerous explosions, pending the identification and resolution of the damage to the pipelines," they added.

The disaster follows a summer of extreme weather events in Italy, with seven killed in storms in the north of Italy last month.



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