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The island of Ischia, before the landslide. . Ischia - view from Castello Aragonese. Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons license Autho Markt Tistan from Bristol, UK
29 Nov 2022

Unsafe construction considered the underlying issue behind the Ischia landslide tragedy - 1,3 million more Italians living under threat of landslides and floods

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Italy declared a state of emergency on Sunday after a landslide destroyed buildings and killed 8 people on the holiday island of Ischia this past weekend. 

Search and rescue operations were carried out in the small town of Casamicciola Terme. Reinforcements were sent from Naples, said the Italian Fire Brigade in a statement.  

Torrential rain was hitting the small holiday island of Ischia in Gulf of Naples between Friday November 25, and Saturday November 26. The area had been heavily affected by rain for several days before the landslide occurred.

According to BBC World,  up to 155mm (6.1in) of rain fell over the course of six hours. Heavy rains had been affecting Campania, the region surrounding Naples and Ischia, for several days. A weather warning for rainfall and strong winds is in place until Sunday.

A wave of mud and debris struck Casamicciola Terme in the north part of the island on early Saturday morning. Saturday's disaster came just weeks after 11 people died in floods caused by heavy rains in east-central Italy. 

On  Sunday morning, while rescue work was still ongoing, 10 people remained missing, eight people have been rescued and 209 more had been evacuated from the area where the landslide occurred, the Campania Prefecture office told CNN.

According to Euro News, the Italian press reported that 13 people were injured. Rescue work was still ongoing this Monday with teams having to remove tons of mud to access the interior of several houses.

 

Unsafe construction thought to be the reason so many buildings collapsed

According to The Guardian, there has been growing debate over the contribution of rampant illegal construction to the tragedy in Ischia, an island in the Gulf of Naples.

The head of the Italian Civil Protection Fabrizo Curcio told Italian newspaper La Stampa that Ischia was at greater risk owing to the high number of homes built illegally on the island. 

The problem is likely not isolated to the island of Ischia. The Italian Civil Protection Office claims that  more than 90% of Italian municipalities are at risk from landslides and other natural disasters. This number is based on a 2001 report from ISPRA, the Italian government’s environment agency: According to the report, 7,423 Italian municipalities (93.4% of the total) have areas that are at risk of landslides, floods and coastal erosion.

The report said as many as 1.3 million people in Italy risked being affected by landslides and 6.8 million risk being affected by flooding.

Luca Mercalli, the president of the Italian Meteorological Society,  was a scientific adviser for the agency. He claims the report was among the most important compiled by ISPRA. However, he said no action had been taken by the government to limit the risk of natural disasters.

 

Soil damage due to urban expansion another threat of natural disasters in Italy

Mercalli also referred to another significant report by ISPRA, published in June 2022, which  focused on soil consumption.

According to the report cement now covers 21,500 sq km (8,300 sq miles) of Italy.  Italy lost an average of 77 sq km per year of natural and semi-natural soil between 2006 and 2021, mainly due to urban expansion. This has, according to the report,  furthered the damage possible to be caused by natural events.

 

Photo Credit: (Cover Photo above) The island of Ischia, before the landslide. View from Castello Aragonese, 2014. Wikipedia Commons license Author Markt Tristan from Bristol, UK.