A landslide engulfed buildings on the southern Italian holiday island of Ischia on Saturday, causing confusion among government ministers about the death toll.
Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi stated that no deaths had been confirmed. However, Infrastructure Minister Matteo Salvini stated earlier during a press conference in Milan that eight people had been killed.
Torrential rain hit the port of Casamicciola Terme, one of the six small towns on the island, in the early hours of Saturday, triggering flooding and bringing down buildings.
The fire brigade said searches were underway for 13 people initially reported missing.
“At the moment there are no confirmed deaths, there are some difficulties in the rescue operations because the weather conditions are still challenging”, Piantedosi told reporters in Rome.
Images showed thick mud, debris and stones in Casamicciola Terme.
Ischia is a volcanic island around 30 km (19 miles) from Naples that draws visitors to its thermal baths and picturesque coastline. It is densely populated and has a large number of illegally built houses, putting inhabitants at permanent risk from flooding and earthquakes.
In 2006 a landslide killed a father and his three daughters on the island.
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said she was in close contact with Civil Protection Minister Nello Musumeci, the Civil Protection Department and the local Campania Region.
“The government expresses its closeness to the citizens and mayors of the municipalities on the island of Ischia and thanks the rescuers engaged in the search for the missing”, she said.
The south of Italy, where houses are often built illegally in unsafe areas, is susceptible to fatal landslides. In 1998 at least 150 people were killed when mud submerged the village of Sarno, also not far from Naples.