A cliff-top Italian cemetery has collapsed into the ocean, with dozens of coffins floating into the Mediterranean Sea and many others fearing to be buried in rubble.
The landslide hit Camogli, a tourist resort near the northwestern city of Genoa, around 3 p.m. Monday, dragging about 200 coffins off the cliff and destroying two chapels in the cemetery.
Photos from the aftermath showed much of the cliff collapsed into the sea, with coffins between the rubble and debris floating some 60 feet below.
Efforts are being made to rescue as many coffins as possible, as relatives of those buried in the cemetery have to wait anxiously to find out if the remains of their loved ones were among those swallowed up by the landslide.
Pictured: the part of the cliff, on which the Camogli is built, that collapsed into the sea on Monday. About 200 coffins are feared to have been dragged into the ocean by the landslide
Photographs of the scene showed coffins in the water among the rubble some 50 meters below the top of the cliff
Local reports suggested the landslide was a result of coastal erosion exacerbated by recent storms in the Mediterranean region of Liguria known as the Italian Riviera.
Residents reported hearing the landslide from their homes, and some said they ran to the cemetery when they heard the cliff fall into the sea.
Some expressed anger at the event, saying they likely lost the coffins and ashes of loved ones in the disaster, noting that little was done to move people’s remains away from the unsafe part of the cemetery.
“My legs are shaking, it’s like he’s dead again,” a woman named Pamela told Il Secolo XIX, a local newspaper, which says her father’s ashes were likely lost.
Another local, Dimitri Perini, told the newspaper, “I was at home, a neighbor said to me,” Did you hear what happened? ” And I ran here. I have my father, I have my grandfather resting in the part of the cemetery that has collapsed. ‘
Germana Zoppi said he was angry, claiming that graveyard officials continued to sell lots to people who have now disappeared into the sea.
“I’ve lost my grandmother, I don’t even know if we’ll find her again. And now I’m trying to understand that my dad didn’t go down either. It’s a shame, ”he said to Il Secolo.
Efforts are being made to rescue as many coffins as possible as relatives of those buried in the cemetery have to wait anxiously to find out if the remains of their loved ones were among those swallowed up by the landslide
Pictured: Firefighters were among the rescuers at the site of the collapse, working to recover as many of the lost coffins as possible while securing the area
The Camogli Cemetery built on the side of the cliff is 150 years old, and work to make the cliff stronger “had been going on for a while,” the local mayor said after the collapse.
Mayor Francesco Olivar, a geologist by trade, said the landslide was difficult to predict in advance, and that much of what collapsed is facing the cliff, meaning most of the coffins could be buried under the landslide.
Fortunately, the cemetery was closed to the public – as always on Mondays – and there are no reports of anyone being injured in the shore collapse.
Efforts to return the coffins to dry land continued into the night Monday and Tuesday, with 10 coffins recovered Monday night, and it will be left to a coroner to identify the recovered bodies.
Local authorities have deployed drones as part of the recovery efforts, while videos Monday night showed emergency services on boats at the base of the cliff assessing the situation.
Another video, filmed from the cemetery at the time of the landslide, showed people believed to be workers watching from the roof of a mausoleum, while another – whose roof has already partially collapsed – fell into the sea.
Pictured: A still from video showing the moment of the collapse from the cemetery. The video, taken by someone believed to be a worker who was at the cemetery at the time, showed the roof of one of the mausoleums with coffins collapsing
The video then shows the mausoleum suddenly sinking out of sight and falling off the cliff as the land below gives way, carrying coffins and the ashes of people.
Further up the cemetery cliff there are also ten houses, three of which are said to be inhabited. The residents of the houses were offered temporary housing by city officials after the collapse.
Cracks could already be heard on Sunday, giving the locals an idea of what was going to happen, and the area that has now collapsed will be cordoned off. Mountain climbers had also explored the cliff.
But despite the signs, the mayor still said the collapse was “unpredictable, especially in its vastness.”
“What happened today I add to the darkest moments I have experienced as mayor and I am close to all my fellow citizens,” he said.