Oct 25 Fact Sheet
On October 25, 2011, Vernazza one of the five villages of the Cinque Terre, was devastated by an unprecedented storm that ravaged the territory with a tornado and over 20 inches of rain, a third of an average year’s rainfall. As a result, massive flooding and over 100 mudslides buried the town in 4 meters (13+ feet) of mud & debris, toook the lives of 3 residents, terrorized locals and visitors, and caused over 100 million Euros in damages.
- Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997
- In 1999 the Cinque Terre National Park is formed
- Visited annually by approximately 2.5 million tourists
- For more on the history of Vernazza visit our Vernazza History page
October 25, 2011: Statistics/Facts*
- Total amount of rainfall between 12:00 and 16:00pm:
500 millimeters / 20 inches
100 millimeters per hour / 5 inches per hour
- 1.5 – 2 million cubic meters (5.3 – 7 million cubic feet) of mud, trees, stone and debris, including cars, flooded down the valley into Vernazza.
- 25,000 cubic meters (883,000 cubic feet) of earth buried Vernazza’s main street, Via Roma, in up to 4 meters (13+ feet) of mud and debris. The area of town known as Fontanavecchia is also submerged up to the first floor level of all buildings. Landslides behind those buildings endanger their stability even further.
- 300 landslides or 25 landslides per sq. km (.38 sq. miles) were recorded in territory that falls within the comune of Vernazza.
- Approximately 1600 landslides where recorded within the entire affected area of 200 sq.km (77 sq. miles).
- 108 million Euro is the estimated damage to Vernazza.
October 25, 2011: Timeline
- Heavy rains turn to torrential downpour at approximately 13,00 (1:00pm).
- Soon after water levels begin to rise and increase in speed, tables & chairs from restaurants, garbage bins, planters and many other items are swept down the main street with the current. Some time later, smaller vehicles like scooters and apes (small 3 or 4 wheel pick-ups) are also swept down the main street with the current.
- Torrential rains continue with water levels rising, trapping over 100 people in stores, restaurants, bars and cantinas.
- At approximatly 14,45 (2:45pm) there is a “pause” in the flooding and the water recedes for about 10-15 minutes (some attribute this to an enormous landslide that may have acted as a dam to slow down the speed of the water/debris while others believe a pile up of cars closer to town could have caused such a dam).
Because of this pause, many that remained trapped in stores, restaurants, bars and cantinas are able to escape to higher ground. Many escape through ventilation windows facing the back alleyways, others break through walls to get to neighboring stairwells, with some exiting the front doors, fighting the current to get to neighboring stairwells in order to climb to higher and safer levels.
- At approximately 15,10 (3:10pm) the town’s gas tank from up in the hills comes careening down the main street, punctured, whistling, and spewing a spout of gas over 10 meters high, leaving in its wake strong fumes that cause many to fear a potential explosion.
- The flood creates a raging river in place of the main street and Vernazza is divided in two, with people frantically looking across the ravine, searching for loved ones/travel partners they are separated from.
- Vernazza’s infrastructure is badly damaged and residents & visitors are left without water, electricity, gas or phone lines. Cellular communication is not possible due to downed cell towers.
- People pull together with locals taking tourists into their homes for the evening and the Chiesa dei Frati, located on high ground, is turned into an emergency shelter where many gather to make it through the night.
- The children of the neighboring village of Corniglia, who attend school in Vernazza, are unable to return home and forced to spend the night in the school with their teachers; their parents with no way of knowing whether their child/children are safe.
- Due to the remoteness of the village, whose sole road had been completely destroyed, help is slow in coming (only able to arrive by way of helicopter or boat) and news extremely slow in getting out.
If not for this pause, many speculate that the death toll on October 25, 2011 would have been well beyond the three residents who lost their lives that day. In Valentino’s story he credits his father Pino, who was swept away minutes prior by the flood waters (his body washing ashore weeks later near St. Tropez, France), for the pause.
October 26, 2011: Timeline
- Rain stops in the AM and the torrential flood-waters subside.
- First supplies begin to come into Vernazza by helicopter and boat.
- The town of Vernazza is evacuated by boat and small train carts used for track maintenance on the one, lesser-damaged train track. The other track and tunnel remain buried.
- 3 Vernazza residents are reported missing (later confirmed dead when their bodies washed ashore near St. Tropez, France weeks later).
- Citizens who remain behind begin digging out with the help of the Civil Service Protection Agency, Fire Rescue Teams and area volunteers.
November 7, 2011
Save Vernazza ONLUS is formed to increase international awareness, in order to raise funds in the effort to rebuild, restore and preserve the Community of Vernazza.
November 20, 2011
Digging out of Vernazza’s main street, Via Roma, is complete and store and cantinas (wine cellars) are finally liberated from the mud and debris of October 25, 2011.
January 9, 2012
Civil Protection Agency leaves as well as Military Camp cooks and kitchen.
January 16, 2012
Work begins on stabilizing the hillsides, aqueduct, canal and sewer system. The areas in the upper part of town, from Fontana Vecchia to Vernazzola, remain without water, gas, electricity or phone lines.
The town of Vernazza has been working around the clock to stabilize its hillsides and rebuild its canal, infrastructure, homes and businesses. The majority of residents have returned and Vernazza has reopened to visitors for the 2012 season.
Visit our Travel Advisor page for up to date information on openings of commercial activities, trail information as well as up to date photos and videos.
Vernazza needs the patronage of tourists more than ever this year, and the people of Vernazza are looking forward to welcoming visitors. Vernazza will one day shine again as the crown jewel of the Cinque Terre, and we are still on the long and costly road to complete recovery.
For information on the key projects that Save Vernazza will be funding, pertaining to urban regeneration, trail & dry stone wall reconstruction and more please visit our Rebuild, Restore, Preserve Vernazza page.
With your help we can continue the work to rebuild Vernazza. Together we can restore and preserve this exceptional village.
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- ARPAL, Agenzia Regionale Per La Protezione Dell’Ambiente Ligure
- La Repubblica Genova
- Atmosfera Toscana