A raging white-water creek in a deep mountain gorge swelled suddenly yesterday after heavy rain.
Dramatic aerial pictures show survivors being rescued in the flash rush of water in the narrow mountain gorge in the Calabria region, near Civita in central Italy.
Other pictures show rescue teams using ropes to descend the sides of the mountain to reach the site to look for survivors.
A helicopter was used to find areas where survivors could have been washed up.
The civil protection department said 23 people were rescued and about a dozen others hospitalised.
Raganello creek, part of the Pollino National Park, is at the bottom of a narrow, 1km-deep gorge in the mountain.
Carlo Tansi, head of the civil protection department in Calabria, said: «This gorge filled up with water in a really short space of time and these people were catapulted out like bullets.
Eugenio Facciolla, the chief prosecutor of the provincial capital, Cosenza, said: «It is really difficult terrain, filled with obstacles because of the geological formation of the area.”
He said rescuers working under spotlights were trying to locate areas where some people may have survived by ending up on small patches of shore or tiny islands in the creek.
Six of the victims were women and five were men.
The most seriously injured were taken by helicopter to hospitals in Cosenza and Castrovillari.
About a dozen people, including a child, managed to reach higher ground.
It was not clear how many people were missing because not all had entered the gorge with official guides and registered themselves.