A cemetery in the seaside resort town of Camogli, in northern Italy, collapsed due to a landslide on Monday afternoon, sending an estimated 200 coffins into the ocean.
The cemetery, built more than a century ago, was located along a rocky cliff. Francesco Olivari, the mayor of Camogli, told CNN that the disaster was an “unimaginable catastrophe” that had likely occurred due to erosion along the coast.
“This type of collapse that happened today is very hard to detect or to predict,” Olivari said. “This area is subject to this type of collapse ― it’s very fragile.”
Aside from the cemetery, the landslide destroyed two chapels that had bodies contained in them, and rubble from the structures also tumbled down the cliff into the Mediterranean Sea below.
According to local Italian media, as of Tuesday, 10 bodies had been recovered from the sea, five of which were identified.
Images and video posted to Twitter by Vigili del Fuocol, the official account of Italy’s firefighting brigade, showed the extent of the catastrophe.
Camogli’s councillor for public works, Tino Revello, told Italian news agency ANSA that the graveyard had been cordoned off prior to the collapse due to “strange creaking sounds.”
Italy’s National Council of Geologists commented on the collapse in a press release and said it represented the “enormous fragility” of structures in Italy’s countryside, as well as “the poor maintenance that we geologists have been denouncing for years.”
In 2018, a 50-year-old bridge in Genoa ― about 15 miles west of Camogli ― similarly collapsed due to torrential rain, killing 43 people and leaving 600 homeless. The bridge had long been a subject of controversy, with experts arguing that it was structurally unsound and a disaster waiting to happen.