Search called off in Italy gorge flood that killed 10

MILAN (AP) – Italy’s environmental minister on Tuesday urged prosecutors to look at possible criminal responsibility and administrative lapses that may have contributed to the deaths of 10 people swept away by a flash flood as they hiked through a narrow gorge in the southern region of Calabria.

Rescue workers saved 34 people Monday after a torrent about 8 feet deep filled the narrow Raganello Gorge, which features rock faces as high as 2,300 feet inside the vast Pollino National Park. Of those, 11 were hospitalized, including at least four children – several of whom lost either one or both of their parents.

Three people who had been listed as missing had changed plans and were located elsewhere, and officials called off the search for any further possible victims.

“Italy is tired of crying for the dead. Enough,” environment minister Sergio Costa said during a visit to the scene. “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.”

The tragedy came six days after a highway bridge collapse in the northern port city of Genoa killed 43 people.

Italian prosecutors on Tuesday opened a criminal investigation into the gorge deaths, and the government has asked for a separate administrative proceeding to determine if there were lapses that contributed to the deaths.

Prosecutor Eugenio Facciolla said authorities were investigating possible charges including manslaughter, causing bodily harm and official negligence, the news agency ANSA reported. No target has been identified.

Questions focused on whether weather alerts had been properly issued and heeded, and whether access to the gorge and its challenging terrains should be better regulated.

Meteorologists say that the intense rainfall that provoked the torrent wasn’t particularly extraordinary for the period. Still, rescue workers and officials said flash floods in the gorge are rare in the summer, and that one of that magnitude hadn’t registered for about a century.