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After lethal storm, northern Italy picks up pieces

At least six dead, several still missing

27 October, 16:58
After lethal storm, northern Italy picks up pieces (ANSA) - Genoa, October 27 - The death toll was at six Thursday with reports of several still missing the day after violent storms and mudslides in northwest Italy that cut off entire towns and swept away roads, bridges and at least one house.

Conditions in Monterosso al Mare, a coastal town in the famous Cinque Terre area of Liguria on the the UNESCO World Heritage List, had improved after heavy flooding inundated the streets and cut off access by land, prompting emergency help from the military.

"We are still isolated, accessible only by sea," Mayor Angelo Betta told ANSA. "But the situation is much better compared to yesterday." He added that emergency workers and volunteers had worked through the night to clean up the town, some using their bare hands. On Wednesday, one volunteer worker in Monterosso died in the flood.

The nearby town of Vernazza, also in the Cinque Terre area, is still completely cut off by flooding and has so far not been accessible to bulldozers and cranes.

Gas, electricity, and drinking water were unavailable in much of the area along the border of Liguria and Tuscany where an estimated 367,000 cubic meters of rain fell, causing a house to collapse and killing three people in the La Spezia province.

Prosecutors in Tuscany opened an investigation into the alleged manslaughter of two people who died from flood-related injuries in the town of Aulla, possibly due to faulty work on the nearby Magra River, causing it to overflow.

Officials estimated the cost of the storm damage to be in the tens of millions of euros.

"These are the very painful effects of climate change that we unfortunately are paying," said Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Italian television Wednesday.

The A12 highway in Liguria has been blocked in both directions since Tuesday afternoon when a mudslide trapped a driver inside his truck. The driver was eventually freed. The transport authority expects the highway to reopen between late Thursday and early Friday.

"We spent the whole night in the bus," said Ninni Corda, the coach of a fourth-tier soccer team which was blocked en route to a game. "We witnessed scenes from the Apocalypse - cars flipped upside down, one on top of the other".

Train services throughout the coastal region of Liguria were halted as mud and debris as high as four meters covered parts of the tracks.

Heavy rainfall was expected in regions further south later in the week as the storm front moved toward Sicily on Thursday.

Italy has been hit by successive lethal storms over the past week.

A young woman was killed Friday near Mount Vesuvius when her car was swept away in another mudslide.

Heavy storms in Rome flooded an underground apartment last week, drowning a 32-year-old man.

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