Garko hurt in fatal blast

Elderly woman at villa hosting actor dies in explosion

(by Laura Clarke).
    (ANSA) - Sanremo, February 1 - Italian television actor Gabriel Garko was recovering from shock, mild concussion and grazes on Monday after an explosion at a two-story villa in the northern city of Sanremo in which an elderly woman died.
    Garko, 43, was staying in Villa Le Rose in the residential Solaro district of the Ligurian riviera town for rehearsals for the Sanremo Song Festival that opens next week. He had been chosen by presenter and artistic director Carlo Conti to co-host the 66th edition of the festival on February 9-13 along with Italian comedian Virginia Raffaele and Romanian actress and model Madalina Ghenea.
    The blast occurred around 8.40 am local time as a result of a build-up of gas in an upper floor apartment for reasons that remain unclear.
    The victim was Maria Grazia Gugliermetti, the 77-year-old mother of the villa's owner who arrived from Turin on Sunday night.
    Garko was injured when a false ceiling in the ground-floor apartment where he was sleeping collapsed.
    He was taken to hospital for examination and was released shortly after 11 am local time with a prognosis of 10 days.
    An assistant who was also staying at the villa was reportedly unhurt.
    Later in the day a small crowd of fans gathered outside the main entrance to the Ariston Theatre in Sanremo that hosts the annual song contest in the hope of catching a glimpse of the actor, who however failed to appear.
    Unconfirmed reports suggested he may have gone to his mother's in Riva Ligure.
    Meanwhile it has emerged that the actor wanted to enter the villa after the explosion to assist Gugliermetti but had to desist due to the flames, according to eye witness accounts. Garko's participation in the Sanremo Song Festival was announced last month. "Carlo Conti's call came as a surprise, maybe because I tend to underestimate myself," Garko said at the press conference.
    "This will be my first experience on stage and I have decided to be fully myself," he continued.
    "I will enter Italians' homes in a different way from usual: normally I am the protagonist, here I will be at the service of the show," Garko concluded.