Italy floods: Girl is pulled to safety from Raganello river gorge

Flooding hits gorge

At least 8 hikers killed by flash flooding in Southern Italy

At least eight hikers have died in southern Italy when the level of a raging white-water creek in a deep mountain gorge swelled suddenly after heavy rainfall, officials said.

"We have eight dead but we can't rule out the toll increasing", the local civil protection unit told AFP.

Several hiking groups were caught yesterday afternoon by the flooding in the Raganello river gorge in southern Cozenza province, with local authorities saying that 23 people had been rescued. Most tourists and trekkers who visit the area, in the country's deep south, are Italian.

During the Raganello gorge trek, hikers will pass waterfalls, natural slipways and water pools.

Italy's civil protection agency said at least three people were missing, although the number could be higher since guides were not mandatory inside the Raganello Gorge, a popular spot for aquatic trekking.

Tansi said the gorge was only about four metres (13 ft) wide in some places, increasing the speed of the water and making the rescue more hard. We did not have time to do anything.

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Raganello Gorge is very narrow and high, making flooding especially likely and extra unsafe. Imagine almost a kilometer in height.

At its most narrow point, it is just yards wide and about 1,300 feet tall.

Italian prosecutors on Tuesday opened a criminal investigation into the gorge deaths, and the government has asked for a separate administrative proceeding to determine if there were lapses that contributed to the deaths.

A helicopter was helping with a search and rescue operation, with powerful lights also brought in to help rescuers work under cover of darkness. The disaster follows less than a week after a motorway bridge collapsed in northern Italy, killing 43.

The four men and four women were walking in a gorge in a national park in the Calabria region when they were hit by a stream swollen by heavy rain.

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