River of mud floods city

2009-10-02 12:36

Rome - A river of mud unleashed by heavy rains flooded parts of the Sicilian city of Messina, leaving at least six people dead and several missing, Italian officials said on Friday.

The mudslides swept away cars and caused several buildings to collapse during an overnight rain storm, according to civil protection officials on the island's east coast.

Rescuers were using dogs to search for the missing in hard-hit suburbs, though efforts were hampered by the fact that many roads and railways have been cut off by the mud flows, Mayor Giuseppe Buzzanca told Italy's Sky TV. Some isolated areas were reachable only by foot.

Buzzanca said there were 20 people missing, while Fortunato Romano, the city's civil protection head, told Sky later on Friday that five or six were still being sought.

Sky broadcast images of streets clogged with mud and debris reaching as high as the door handles of cars and homes.

At least 100 people were forced to flee their homes, and more than a dozen were injured. Many were transported to hospitals by sea.

Among the six killed was a man who was submerged and suffocated in the mud on the main piazza of a southern Messina suburb, the ANSA news agency said. Another man drowned in the flooded cellar of his country home, it said.