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Italy Ischia Island Disaster: Landslide Kills 8 People, The Missing's Research Continues

On November 26th, the Italian peninsula got caught in severe meteorological conditions, with Civil Protection declaring a red alert in numerous southern Italy regions. Ischia Island was worst affected, with around 120mm of precipitation falling which, mixed with the past rainy November, caused a destructive landslide. 


The casualties count rises to eight while the search and rescue teams continue in a race against time to find the remaining four missing people. While the rescue continues, the State aid machine is running for repairs. The Italian Government is financing initiatives to support the over 200 displaced people, trying to prevent further damages concurrently with the adverse weather forecast for the upcoming days.


The most significant damage happened in the small town of Casamicciola, a little municipality of around 7600 inhabitants built on the slopes of the Epomeo Mount in the Ischia Island northern region. The area is now under an ongoing investigation to define the responsibility of the disaster, while more than one claims this to be the result of climate change.


Tragically the Casamicciola disaster is not a unique case. Indeed, landslides are slightly common over the Italian territory. The Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA), an Italian research institute which studies the environment, declared that 91% of the Italian town is a landslide risk area.


The ISPRA worked on Italian territory tiling to evaluate the landslide danger, analysing the likelihood of a potential disruptive phenomenon in a determined period/area. Thanks to the study, it is possible to define a scale of hazard for the entire national territory, which goes from P1 (the less dangerous) to P4 (the highest risk), along with AA areas, which are areas to be put under attention.


The Naples metropolitan area, including Ischia Island, is classified as P3-P4, having 90 to 100% of its towns under hydrogeological risk. Given the elevated risk of hydrogeological events in this area, people are questioning the possible outcomes of preventive action. The same theme is under investigation by Naples magistracy, questioning where the state funds allocated to securing those areas went.


The former mayor, Giuseppe Conte, declared that he allegedly sent more than 20 emails to the authorities to inform them of the upcoming risk - but no one took him seriously.


While public opinion is rushing to find a person in charge to blame for the casualties, the principal actor in this kind of disaster is nature. Ischia Island is born after intense volcanic activity: the pyroclastic material created after the different eruptions covers the underlying trachyte and sedimentary rock layers, leaving room for water infiltration. With the saturation of this virtual space between the two materials, the sliding of the upper layer starts, causing the landslide.


Besides the disruptive power of nature in the Ischia disaster, there also is human participation, with the abusive building that has cost human lives.

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