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Thursday, May 7, 1998 Published at 00:38 GMT 01:38 UK

World: Europe

Italians search for mud slide survivors

Thousands of rescue workers with helicopters are searching for survivors of floods and mud slides after at least 30 people were killed following two days of torrential rain in southern Italy.

Real Video : BBC Rome Correspondent Orla Guerin describes the scene in the flooded villages
More than 70 others are missing and about 3,000 are estimated to have been left homeless.

The hardest hit towns were Sarno, Quindici and Siano, all south of Naples in Salerno and Avellino provinces.

[ image: At least 33 have been killed]
At least 33 have been killed
In one village near Naples, a wave of mud and water rolled through the streets, carrying away cars and lorries. Eyewitnesses described a whole mountainside crumbling away.

Many people took refuge from the flood waters in high-rise apartment blocks and on roofs. Two hundred hospital patients had to be evacuated after an internal staircase collapsed.

Others fled, seeking safety on higher ground but many roads are now submerged, hampering rescue workers in the hilly region.

[ image: Helicopters have been used in rescuing people from worst-hit areas]
Helicopters have been used in rescuing people from worst-hit areas
The BBC Rome correspondent says an uncontrolled urban sprawl and deforestation have been blamed for the disaster.

Some experts interviewed on Italian television said mass construction, poor infrastructure and lack of planning by local authorities have contributed to the scale of the damage.

"The region is just not properly prepared for disasters like this. We don't even have any maps to show which are the areas most at risk," said Fernando di Mezza, of environmental movement Legambiente Campania.

In 1980 in the same area, 3,000 people died in an earthquake.


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