37 die, 71 missing, in Italian disaster

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THE Italian government declared a state of emergency after torrents of mud and water unleashed by two days of incessant rain engulfed hundreds of homes in the southern Italian region of Campania yesterday, killing at least 37 people.

Rivers of mud burst into town centres, tearing apart houses and bridges, swallowing cars and sending panicked residents fleeing in the heavily populated area east of Naples.

A 34-year-old woman and her three children were killed when the mud swept through their home in Bracigliano, dragging them downstream for half a mile. The children's father escaped by climbing on to the roof.

In the town of Quindici, the mudslide killed the former mayor Olga Santaniello, who in the 1980s led a campaign against the powerful organised crime syndicate in the region, the Camorra. Rescue services said at least 71 more people were still missing in the sludge. Rescue workers, using army bulldozers, searched round the clock for survivors.

Tree-felling blamed, page 15

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