The main street was roaring and churning, washing a car and truck down under the train station and water and debris over the tracks and the train platform.

The day after we arrived, we had a wonderful day visiting the five towns and woke up to rain the next morning. The owner of the place where we ate breakfast (The Blue Marlin) suggested we might like to visit another town further up the coast so we were on the train station watching the rain when the announcement was made that our train would not be coming but the next one scheduled would be there. We watched the rain get heavier and heavier and the main street began to run like a river. A beautiful playground and area with flowers and trees began to get washed away and soon the main street was roaring and churning, washing a car and truck down under the train station and water and debris over the tracks and the train platform. We were beginning to get very concerned because there was no way to get off the train platform. Three wonderful Italian men began leading people across the tracks in hip high water and over a fence when a propane tank broke free and came barreling down the main road. It exploded just before it reached the train platform and the men began screaming to run. We ran through a tunnel (a total of 14 people) and they lead us over the train tracks in hip high water, over a fence, through someones apartment and down to the back entrance of the church. We were soaked through and through by this time and the priest and Frederico, a teacher from town who was on the platform with us got us blankets, towels and a case of water. The priest took the communion wine out of the sacristy and it sure tasted good. After a couple of hours there, watching the water come up the church doors, we were lead to another church on the top of the town which was set up as the emergency center next to the mayor’s office. (I tried to give the second bottle of wine back to the priest but he wouldn’t take it so I distributed it in the emergency center.) By this time the town had no electricity, no water and no gas so we mingled with the local people while kind men brought cookies, water and juices from where ever they could find them. The children were kept in school overnight because it was too dangerous to let them leave the building and the raging water made it impossible to get from one side of town to the other. The rain and water roared all night long and cars, mud, trees and debris washed down the road and into the harbor. Some people were trapped in stores and restaurants along the main street and had to escape out back doors and windows into peoples’ apartments. The place where we had breakfast had to take a hammer and break the wall in the back of the place so people could crawl out. Enrica, our landlady, sent her son to get us at the church and he lead us down to their home where we slept au natural after peeling off our wet clothes. After Enrica’s father offered us a glass of breakfast wine, we put on our wet clothes the next morning and climbed back up to the church with Enrica and her mother since they had no food or water and we tried to get some water and bread. The bread was all gone but we did get water. It’s amazing to me that all we ate in a 36-40 hour span was a couple of cookies and water and wine and we were never hungry the entire time.

The next morning helicopters dropped emergency workers into town and they began evacuating tourists by boat since the train stations in Vernazza and Monterosso were totally filled with mud and debris and would not be able to run for at least a week. Enrica couldn’t get our luggage since her rooms front the main street but she managed to get a woman to let her go through her apartment and through a window and she somehow got our luggage for us. We met her in an alley behind her home and started down into town. The harbor was filled with everything that washed down the hills and the emergency workers and local volunteers helped us cross the streams that were still running by putting benches over the streams and walking us over them. We were able to be evacuated on the second boat that dropped people at La Spezia where they provided a free bus to the train station. We missed our plane connection to Paris and stayed overnight in Piza before flying to Paris the next day. Our shoes and suitcases still smell like Vernazza mud but we are very happy to be safe and dry again. Nine people were killed in the flash floods in Vernazza and Monterosso and the people had no water, electricity or gas even days after the disaster. We feel very bad for the people in the village because they said it would be at least 3 years before the town would be back to normal and most of the people rely on tourism for their livelihood. Very, very sad!

Ridgefield, CT USA

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