What Happened

On October 25th, after a long and extraordinarily warm autumn, it started to rain incessantly in Southern Liguria and Northern Tuscany.  In about three hours the village of Monterosso, in the Cinque Terre, received more than 20 inches of rain. Complicated by a fast-moving tornado and landslides, these extraordinary atmospheric conditions radically and tragically changed the reality of the village in a matter of hours.

By mid-morning of the day of the flooding, trained emergency workers realized the danger of the situation and evacuated the schools in Monterosso. They also moved tourists and townspeople, who were taking cover in bars and restaurants, to their hotels or higher ground. In trying to get everyone safely out of harm’s way,  Monterosso lost one of her own: a emergency volunteer, Sandro Usai. 

There is no way to explain the chaos and uncertainty of what was happening in the early afternoon hours of the 25th.  Few phones remained with service so people were unable to contact each other.  The downpour caused landslides that filled the 6 canals that run under Monterosso’s streets and alleyways.  Some canals exploded with debris, mud, sticks, stones, water and cars, leaving streets at 45 degree angles or turned into endless sinkholes.  After the canals gave way, rivers one to two meters high formed in what were once streets, isolating people physically. Some were forced to break down walls to get to higher ground and were only found that evening when the water subsided a bit.

 Everything seemed to happen in the dark, all day long the light was blocked out by the thick rain and storm clouds.  The noise of pouring rain, rushing water and the debris rushing down the valley was deafening.
Everyone who was able to sleep that night got up eagerly, but cautiously, with the light on the morning of the 26th. Luckily the rain had ceased but Monterosso was buried. It was hard to believe that the awnings that remained that brushed your feet the day before used to hang well over your head. Families happily reunited.  People were helping each other out of windows in bare feet and underwear, for the clothes they had worn the day before had been soiled with mud and were drenched.