ROME – A landslide ripped through a cliff-edge graveyard in northern Italy’s Liguria region, scattering about 200 coffins and corpses on a hillside and into the Mediterranean Sea.
Divers managed to retrieve 12 coffins from the sea Wednesday after the landslide in the town of Camogli, about eight miles north of Portofino, two days earlier. Most of the coffins in the cemetery were strewn by debris caused by the landslide.
Relatives of people who had been buried in the cemetery gathered in the main square of the coastal town to receive news and protest what they said was negligence on the part of the local authorities.
“It was the only place where I could go to see my parents and talk to them,” Clara Terrile, 66, a shoe store owner in Camogli, said in a phone interview on Wednesday, “now I’m left with nothing.”
The landslide was likely caused by erosion of the cliff below the cemetery, exacerbated by storms that have battered the fragile Ligurian coast in recent years, according to Italy’s National Council of Geologists.
“This event hit the community emotionally,” said Francesco Olivari, Mayor of Camogli. “All Liguria is characterized by these phenomena, it was difficult to foresee it,” he said.
The landslide, which occurred off the coast of Genoa, where a bridge collapsed in 2018 and killed 43 people, sparked outrage in Italy over the lack of maintenance of infrastructure and the prevention of natural disasters. Genoa prosecutors have opened an investigation into the collapse of the cemetery.
“This is Italy, even the dead cannot rest in peace,” one person regretted On twitter.
The landslide shows “the lack of maintenance that geologists have denounced for years,” said Domenico Angelone, secretary of the National Council of Geologists, in a statement. Despite their “high social, moral and cultural value,” cemeteries are often built in unstable places and in recent years suffered from a “lack of attention,” he added.
The city had begun work to solidify the cliff next to the cemetery and in recent days the area had been closed off after officials noticed cracks and heard some “creaks.” Mr. Olivari, the mayor, said. Some locals protested that they had been reporting cracks and problems with the cemetery structure for years.
Camogli resident Lilla Mariotti posted on Facebook a photo of cracks in the cemetery walls that she said she sent to the mayor in 2012. “I never got any response,” she wrote.
Ms Terrile said she wrote to the city hall in 2007 reporting cracks in the front of her father’s grave, but never received a response. In 2019, it reported more cracks and the city council fixed them, he said. A couple of weeks ago, on a visit to the cemetery, he noticed that the same cracks had reappeared.
“I hope my parents are among the bodies they found,” he said, “I don’t even have a place where I can bring a flower anymore.”
Olivari, the mayor, said the city had established psychological support for affected families.
Regional authorities asked the national rescue services for help, as the search operation for coffins and bodies depended on security on the cliff, which was at risk of collapsing again.
For now, divers can only rescue coffins floating in the sea, as most of the others are buried under the rubble of the landslide, said Giacomo Giampedrone, the top regional civil protection official.