Heavy rainfall triggered landslides early Saturday on the southern Italian island of Ischia that left as many as 12 people missing as it cut a muddy swath through a port town, collapsing buildings and sweeping cars into the sea.
Italy’s interior minister said no deaths were confirmed, appearing to contradict an early announcement by another senior official.
“At the moment there are no confirmed deaths,” said Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi, speaking from the firefighters emergency coordination center.
Italian Vice Premier Matteo Salvini, who is also the infrastructure minister, had said earlier that eight deaths had been confirmed, speaking to reporters at the opening of a subway extension in Milan.
The prefect for the Naples region, which includes Ischia, said at least 12 people were missing. Claudio Palomba also was quoted by Italian media as saying that no deaths had been confirmed.
The force of the mud sliding down mountainsides was strong enough to send cars and buses into the sea at the port of Casamicciola, on the north end of the island. Streets were impassable and mayors on the island urged people to stay at home. At least 100 people were reported stranded.
The news agency ANSA reported that at least 10 buildings had collapsed. One family with a newborn that was previously reported missing had been located and was receiving medical care, according to the Naples prefect.
Firefighters and the Coast Guard were working on rescue efforts. Reinforcements arrived by ferry, including teams of sniffer dogs to help the search efforts.
The densely populated mountainous island is a popular tourist destination for both its beaches and spas. A 4.0 quake on the island in 2017 killed two people, causing significant damage to the towns of Casamicciola and neighboring Lacco Ameno.