MILAN, Italy, Aug. 3 (Xinhua) -- Four people were killed and 20 were injured, one of which seriously, due to the sudden overflowing of a stream swollen by incessant rainfalls in northern Italy, local reports said on Sunday.
The disaster occurred on Saturday night, when the victims were taking part in a countryside festival held under a tent in Refrontolo, a village near the town of Treviso, and a three-meter-high wave ran over them, according to eyewitnesses quoted by the local press.
There were around 100 people under the tent. Most of them managed to reach safety except for four men, aged between 40 and 70, who were killed. Another 20 were reported to be injured, of which one seriously.
“An enormous amount of water suddenly fell on the festival, and the huge tent was burned to the ground,” a local resident told Rai state television. “People were desperate, I had never seen something like that,” one of the hundreds of rescuers who worked all night on the spot said.
The forest management unit said the overflowing was allegedly caused by the accumulation of debris, including rocks, soil and several hay bales, in a point of the stream. Later the obstruction was broken down by the violent flow of water. An investigation was also opened to better ascertain what happened.
However, according to some residents quoted by Sky television, the accident was also caused by the negligence of local authorities. “In November, a landslide had blocked this stream, and in spite of all my warnings, some of the rocks are still there, the work was not completed,” one of them said.
“No one cleans up the stream, it is a job that would require just two hours of work, the situation cannot be like this every time that it rains,” he went on to say.
Other residents noted that the area, which is renowned for its Prosecco wine cultivations, has been exploited too much, which has unveiled the fragility of that territory.
Climate change was also thought to be at the roots of the disaster. “Due to increasing climatic transformations, floods and landslides have become more and more frequent in many parts of Italy,” Daniele Stival, the regional councilor for civil protection of Veneto region, where the disaster occurred, pointed out.
A statement from Italy’s largest farm association Coldiretti said on Sunday that hydro-geological risk is high in more than 80 percent of Italy’s municipalities, with over five million people living or working in places subject to floods and landslides, as a result of climate change and other factors.
The bad weather which has hit Italy in recent weeks, with continual torrential rainfall, has caused major economic damage to the ongoing touristic season, with customer figures in beach establishments falling by up to 70 percent compared to last year, estimates of the sector’s association said.
Following the many “alarm bells" sounded by recent weather phenomena, the government of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi pledged on Sunday to invest more resources in “safeguard, prevention and security works,” and streamline the bureaucratic system that often impede rapid intervention.