Italy floods: Girl, 8, rescued after deadly flash flood

A girl's hand is pictured around the neck of a rescuer as she is placed in a helicopterImage copyright

Image caption

The girl’s rescuer told Italian media he would “never forget the eyes” of the child

An eight-year-old girl with hypothermia is among 23 people rescued from flash flooding in the Pollino National Park in southern Italy.

At least 10 hikers died in the Calabria tourist spot after they were hit by a wall of water on Monday.

Rescuers looked for survivors into the night, with helicopters airlifting the injured to local hospitals.

Local reports say the eight-year-old was found in a state of shock by rescuers beside a dead body.

Officials believe the girl’s parents are “almost certainly” among the victims, according to Pasquale Gagliardi, medical director of the regional helicopter rescue service.

He posted emotional photographs of the girl’s rescue on his social media pages.

One was captioned (in Italian) “you’ll make it, little one.”

Mr Gagliardi described the tragedy as “unprecedented” for the region.

“I’ve been flying for over 20 years and I can say I’m a veteran. I’ve helped hundreds of people in difficult situations, but I had never had a misfortune of this size,” the Consenza Page newspaper quoted him as saying.

What happened?

Witnesses say heavy rain in the Pollino National Park area caused a sudden rush of flood water, rocks and mud through the Raganello creek where dozens of hikers had been exploring.

The flood waters engulfed some, sending them downstream, while others reportedly scrambled to higher ground to escape.

Carlo Tansi, head of civil protection in Calabria, told reporters on Monday that those hit by water were “catapulted out like bullets” and washed down the valley for about 3km (two miles).

“The Raganello Gorge is narrow and tall, it can get up to 1km (3,200ft) high,” he said. “The gorge filled up with water in a really short time.”

Italian President Sergio Mattarella said in a statement that the tragedy has left the entire country “profoundly sad”.

Who are the victims?

The survivors and those killed are reported to be part of two separate hiking groups which were exploring the gorge at the time.

An earlier death toll of 11 people was revised down to 10 on Tuesday due to confusion caused by “overlapping reports”.

Official identification is yet to take place but Italian media report that six of those killed were women and four were men.

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Media captionHelicopter rescue saves hiker trapped by flash floods

Italy’s Environment Minister Sergio Costa, who visited the area on Tuesday, said rescuers are now “99.9% sure” no one else is unaccounted for.

He also said Dutch tourists were among the injured.

Three people thought to be missing were found safe elsewhere on Tuesday, but precautionary searches are continuing because no records are kept of who is in the gorge at any one time.

Piefrancesco Demilito, from the Civil Protection Agency, said some bodies were recovered miles away from where they were when flooding hit.

The disaster comes just days after dozens died in a bridge collapse in the Italian port city of Genoa.

Mr Costa said on Tuesday that the country was now “tired of crying for the dead”.

“If what happened is the result of negligence, sloppiness or a lack of awareness of the risks, we are facing a serious situation that we need to get to the bottom of,” he said on a visit to the scene.

Weather warnings had been in place at the time and reports in Italian media suggest that some of the victims may have recovered without appropriate clothing and equipment.

The local prosecutor Eugenio Facciolla said authorities were investigating the incident for possible charges, including manslaughter.

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