Maierato, Italy (AFP) Feb 17, 2010
Mudslides caused by torrential rains in southern Italy sparked the evacuation of thousands of villagers in Calabria on Wednesday, officials said as they launched an emergency rescue.
All the estimated 2,300 villagers in the Calabria village of Maierato were taken to safety after a nearby hillock collapsed, local media said.
About 300 of them were housed in impromptu shelters, a police school and a gymnasium.
The prefect, or the seniormost official, of the Vibo Valentia region -- where the village is located -- reported several mudslides overnight.
Firefighters and emergency workers worked round-the-clock and the local head of civil protection, Guido Bertolaso, said he would ask the Calabrian authorities to proclaim a natural disaster.
On Monday, about half of the inhabitants of another village in Sicily, San Fratello, were evacuated after landslides affected dozens of homes.
Local media and experts have blamed the uncontrolled construction of buildings -- often with poor safety standards -- for building collapses and landslides.
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