Tuesday 15 October 2019

Two families drown in one home due to Italy flooding

Damage: A fireman walks towards a motorhome in a ditch near the house where two families drowned in Casteldaccia, near Palermo. Photo: Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters
Damage: A fireman walks towards a motorhome in a ditch near the house where two families drowned in Casteldaccia, near Palermo. Photo: Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters

Frances D'Emilio

Floods in Sicily have killed at least 12 people, including nine members of two families who were spending a weekend together when water from a swollen river overran their rented villa.

After visiting the stricken Mediterranean island by helicopter, Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte said the other victims included a German couple whose car was swept away by flood waters near Agrigento, a tourist town known for Greek temples.

A one-year-old, a three-year-old and a 15-year-old were among the flood victims from the family get-together in Casteldaccia, near Palermo.

A survivor, Giuseppe Giordano, lost his wife, two of his children, his parents and a brother.

Mr Giordano was about to step outside on Saturday night when the torrent rushed in. When he opened the door, "there was a river of water, I was knocked down and grabbed hold of a tree," Mr Giordano said between sobs. "I was yelling, 'Help, help.'"

"My son Federico tried to save his little sister, but both died," Mr Giordano said.

A view of the flooded house where nine people lost their lives in Casteldaccia, near Palermo, Italy. Photo: Mike Palazzotto/ANSA via AP
A view of the flooded house where nine people lost their lives in Casteldaccia, near Palermo, Italy. Photo: Mike Palazzotto/ANSA via AP

Then "I saw the windows go dark, the light go out, a layer of mud was moving across the floor," Mr Giordano said, adding he was swept away from the house by the force of the water.

The two families had gathered in the villa during Italy's long weekend centering on the November 1 All Saint's Day national holiday.

Casteldaccia mayor Giovanni Di Giacinto said the flood water reached two metres high inside the home.

Rescuers retrieved the bodies from the home and a Sicilian prosecutor opened an investigation to determine if neglect, such as possible inadequate drainage of the river, played a role in the deaths or if the home was built illegally close to the river. Pino Virga, the mayor of the neighbouring town of Altavilla Milicia, said other local authorities told him the house had been slated for demolition because it stood too near the river.

Only days earlier, other storms battered much of northern Italy, killing at least 15 people, uprooting millions of trees near Alpine valleys and leaving several Italian villages without electricity or road access for days.

Mr Conte said a special cabinet meeting could be held in the coming days to deliberate aid for storm-ravaged communities, as well as to approve €1bn to ensure safe hydrogeological conditions in Italy, including proper cleaning of riverbeds.

The other known casualty in Sicily was a man whose body was found on a guardrail along a Palermo-area road after floodwaters swept away his car.

Irish Independent

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