FEATURES » 50th Anniversary of the Vajont tragedy

50th Anniversary of the Vajont tragedy

On the 9th of October Italy remembered one of the worst man-made environmental disasters of all time: the Vajont tragedy. Fifty years ago, on the evening of the 9th of October 1963, the landslide of mount Toc, in the artificial lake created by the Vajont dam, caused a huge wave which killed 1910 people.

Vajont is the name of the torrent which flows through the valley of Erto and Casso to reach the river Piave in front of Longarone and Castellavazzo, in the province of Belluno.

It was 10:39 pm when a part of the Mount Toc suddenly collapsed into the lake. A giant wave hit on the opposite side investing Erto and Casso. Another passed the dam and fell on Longarone, together with rocks, logs and remains of buildings. Four minutes was enough to kill almost two thousand people. 

After the wave, there was nothing, the valley was completely covered in mud. Hundreds of rescuers dug in search of survivors, who would then have to rebuild their lives. After the disaster it was the beginning of laborious trials and scandals.  

Three were the fundamental human errors that led to the disaster:

- having built the dam in a valley not suitable from a geological perspective,

- having raised the level of the artificial lake over the safety margins,

-  not having given the alarm on the evening of October  the 9th, to enable the mass evacuation of people living in areas at risk of flooding.

A judicial inquiry was opened. The trial was held in its three phases from the 25th of November 1968 to the 25th of March 1971, and ended with the recognition of criminal liability for the predictable flood and landslide, and for multiple manslaughter.

Now Longarone and the areas affected have been rebuilt. 

The prime minister Enrico Letta joined the celebrations in memory of the 50th anniversary of the Vajont tragedy, and mentioning the words said by the president of the republic Giorgio Napolitano, remarked that the tragedy wasn’t just a tragic fatality, but a consequence of precise human mistakes. Remembering the tragedy should draw attention to the lack of the State in providing for the safety of its people. For this reason in the “legge di stabilità” 50 million Euros, which are the result of the sale of the aircraft of the State, will be allocated for Civil Protection.  

Giulia Lombardo

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