Firefighters are working on rescue efforts as reinforcements are sent from nearby Naples, but they are facing difficulties in reaching the island.
MILAN, Milan — Heavy rainfall triggered a massive landslide early Saturday on the southern Italian resort island of Ischia that destroyed buildings and swept parked cars into the sea, leaving at least one person dead and about 12 missing.
The woman’s body was pulled out of the mud, the Prefect of Naples, Claudio Palombo, said at a press conference.
As the rain continued, rescuers carefully worked with small bulldozers to dig through about six to seven meters (yards) of dirt and detritus in search of possible victims. Reinforcements arrived by ferry, including a team of service dogs to help with the search effort.
The force of the mud, which slid down the mountainside before dawn, was strong enough to send cars and buses onto the beach and into the sea at the port of Casamicciola, on the northern tip of the island, which is off Naples.
The island received 126 millimeters (almost five inches) of rain in six hours, the heaviest total in 20 years, officials said.
Streets were impassable and mayors on the island urged people to stay at home. At least 100 people were reported to be without power and water, and about 70 were housed in the gymnasium.
There was confusion about the death toll. Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini initially said eight people had died, after which the interior minister said there were no deaths and 10-12 were missing.
“The situation is very difficult and very serious because probably some of these people are under the dirt,” Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi told state broadcaster RAI from the emergency control center in Rome.
ANSA reported that at least 10 buildings collapsed. According to the prefect of Naples, one family with a newborn, who was previously considered missing, has been located and received medical attention.
Video from the island shows small bulldozers clearing roads and residents using hoses to try to get the dirt out of their homes. One man, identified as Benjamin Yacano, told Sky TG24 that the mud flooded three neighboring shops he owns, completely destroying his inventory. He estimated the damage at 100,000 to 150,000 euros ($104,000 to $156,000).
Firefighters and the Coast Guard conducted search and rescue operations, initially hampered by strong winds that prevented helicopters and boats from reaching the island.
The densely populated mountainous island is a popular tourist destination for both its beaches and resorts. A 4.0-magnitude earthquake struck the island in 2017, killing two people and causing significant damage to the towns of Casamicciola and nearby Lac Ameno.