Six people still missing and two found alive in rubble, fire chief says
At least three people are reported to have died after multiple buildings caught fire and collapsed in the wake of a gas explosion in a Sicilian town.
Rescuers were searching for several missing people among the rubble hours after the blast in Ravanusa, a town in the south of the island, with two women rescued overnight.
One of the buildings was occupied by nine members of an extended family. Two visiting relatives — a heavily pregnant woman and her husband — were also on the premises when the explosion occurred, firefighters said.
The houses, including a four-storey building, caught fire after a natural gas pipe exploded at around 8:30pm on Saturday in the town of 11,000 people, in the province of Agrigento.
The town’s mayor, Carmelo D’Angelo, said there were some 50 people displaced, with some temporarily housed in a local school, although local media reported that number to be up to three times higher.
Rosa Carmina, 80, who was pulled from the rubble along with her sister-in-law who lived on the floor above, told La Repubblica from hospital that the lights went out suddenly “and the ceiling and floors collapsed”.
Four buildings were destroyed in total and another three were damaged, the Italian news agency Ansa quoted the director of the regional civil protection service as saying. Three of the collapsed buildings are thought to have been unoccupied.
The explosion was perhaps triggered by an elevator and may have been amplified by a gas heater, the civil protection chief Salvatore Cocina said, adding that it was still too early to tell for certain.
“It is a huge tragedy … Let’s pray to ask God to avoid more deaths,” said the priest, Filippo Barbera.
Additional reporting by Reuters