Heavy rain triggered landslides early Saturday on the southern Italian island of Ischia, which left up to 12 people missing as it tore a muddy swath through a port city, collapsing buildings and dragging cars into the sea.
Italy’s interior minister said no deaths were confirmed, appearing to contradict an earlier announcement by another senior official.
“At the moment there are no confirmed deaths,” Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi said, speaking from the fire emergency coordination center.
Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who is also infrastructure minister, had earlier said eight deaths had been confirmed, speaking to reporters at the inauguration of a metro extension in Milan.
The prefect of the Naples region, which includes Ischia, said at least 12 people were missing. Claudio Palomba was also quoted by Italian media as saying that no deaths had been confirmed.
The force of the mud that slid down the mountainsides was strong enough to send cars and buses into the sea at the port of Casamicciola, on the northern tip of the island. The streets were impassable and the island’s mayors urged people to stay home. At least 100 stranded people were reported.
The ANSA news agency reported that at least 10 buildings had collapsed. A family with a newborn who had previously been reported missing had been located and was receiving medical attention, according to the prefect of Naples.
Firefighters and the Coast Guard were working on the rescue efforts. Reinforcements arrived by ferry, including sniffer dog teams to aid search efforts.
The densely populated mountainous island is a popular tourist destination for both its beaches and spas. A 4.0 earthquake on the island in 2017 killed two people and caused significant damage to the towns of Casamicciola and neighboring Lacco Ameno.