Italian Cliffside Cemetery, and Its Coffins, Carried Away by a Landslide

ROME – A landslide has carried away a cemetery on the edge of a cliff in the northern Italian region of Liguria and scattered about 200 coffins and corpses over a hill and into the Mediterranean Sea.

After the landslide in the town of Camogli, about eight miles north of Portofino, two days earlier, divers managed to retrieve 12 coffins from the sea by Wednesday. Most of the coffins in the cemetery remained scattered around and under the rubble caused by the landslide.

Relatives of people buried in the cemetery gathered in the main plaza of the coastal town to receive news and protest what they called the negligence of the local authorities.

“It was the only place I could visit my parents and talk to them,” said Clara Terrile, 66, who owns a shoe store in Camogli, in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “Now I have nothing more.”

The landslide was likely caused by the erosion of the cliff beneath the cemetery, which, according to the Italian National Council of Geologists, has been made worse by storms on the fragile Ligurian coast in recent years.

“This event hit the community hard emotionally,” said Francesco Olivari, the mayor of Camogli. “All of Liguria is shaped by these phenomena. It was hard to predict, ”he said.

The landslide on the coast of Genoa, in which a bridge collapsed in 2018 and 43 people died, sparked outrage in Italy over the lack of maintenance of the infrastructure and the prevention of natural disasters. The Genoa Public Prosecutor’s Office has opened an investigation into the collapse of the cemetery.

“This is Italy, even the dead cannot rest in peace,” one person complained on Twitter.

The landslide shows “the lack of maintenance that we 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 locations and have suffered from “lack of attention” in recent years, he added.

The town had started to consolidate the cliff at the cemetery and in recent days the area had been enclosed after officials noticed cracks and heard a “creak,” said Mayor, Mr Olivari. Some locals protested that they had been reporting cracks and problems with the structure of the cemetery for years.

Lilla Mariotti, a Camogli resident, posted a picture on Facebook of cracks in the cemetery walls that she said the mayor sent in 2012. “I didn’t get any answers,” she wrote.

Ms. Terrile said that she wrote to City Hall in 2007 reporting cracks in the front of her father’s tomb but never received a response either. In 2019, she reported more cracks and City Hall repaired them, she said. During a visit to the cemetery a few weeks ago, she noticed that the same cracks had reappeared.

“I hope my parents are among the bodies they found,” she said. “I don’t even have a place to bring a flower anymore.”

Mr Olivari, the mayor, said the city had set up psychological support for the families affected.

Regional authorities turned to national emergency services for help as the search for coffins and bodies depended on the safety of the cliff, which was threatened with further collapse.

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.

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