Searches continue after deadly Italy flash floods

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Rescuers and citizens wait in the central square of Civita, a village in the Italian Calabria southern region on August 20, 2018. At least eight people were killed when heavy rain flooded the Raganello Gorge, a popular hiking spot in Civita. / AFP PHOTO / Kontrolab

Italian rescuers continued their search Tuesday for possible survivors of deadly flash flooding in the Calabria region’s Pollino national park, described by hikers as an “avalanche of water”.

Several hiking groups were caught Monday afternoon by the torrential deluge in the Raganello river gorge in southern Cosenza province.

It is unclear whether any people are still unaccounted for, with a spokeswoman for the country’s Civil Protection service telling AFP three people who were reported missing had now been found.

The death toll has been revised down to 10, as opposed to 11 as previously reported, she added.

There was a mistake in the earlier death toll of Monday’s flooding due to “overlapping reports over the course of the night”, the head of Calabria’s civil protection unit Carlo Tansi told local media.

Local authorities say 23 people were rescued from the flooding.

They said the incident involved two groups of 18 hikers each, with powerful floodlights brought up to allow rescuers to work through the night.

Environment Minister Sergio Costa also travelled to the region on Tuesday and told journalists: “We want to know who was meant to do what. The government stands with the families but we want to know within two or three days… what didn’t work and for this reason we have asked for a report from the Cosenza prefecture.”

A Dutch hiker, quoted in local media, said: “A real avalanche of water came unexpectedly. We did not have time to do anything. I was lucky, it was an incredible thing.”

According to Corriere della Sera, among the 23 people rescued were two children. One of them was a girl taken to hospital by helicopter with hypothermia.

On Monday, this part of Calabria experienced several hours of heavy rain and strong winds although conditions began to improve during the evening.

Authorities have warned there is a possibility of storms in the region on Tuesday as well.

The dramatic gorges carved by the Raganello river are only recommended for experienced hikers due to the many challenges posed by the route, which at certain times of the year is rendered off-limits, the AGI news agency reported.