Last night a severe storm hit the Italian Alps, triggering a high-altitude landslide turn mudslide that slammed into the heart of our small town of Bardonecchia, Italy.
When the storm hit, Paolo and I were safe at home watching Idris Elba send an urgent text message on the series Hijack, oblivious to the mudslide sweeping through our town. When our power blinked, we figured it was the outdoor concert or the thousands of tourists in town on holiday. An hour later, we realized something was wrong when our tap ran dry.
First, let’s start with the good news, despite mud, rock, and flying debris, there were no deaths or critical injuries. In the light of day, all residents are accounted for. Local firefighters were the heroes pulling six people to safety from a camper van dragged into the mudslide.
Unfortunately, there is some bad news.
Our police station sustained severe damage from the mudslide and even lost the entire fleet of police vehicles parked outside. Across the street, hotel La Betulla suffered severe damage as well. Worse of all, the mudslide displaced 120 of our neighbors, leaving a mud-caked trail of damage and destruction.
Bardonecchia Italy Mudslide Video
The bridges near the police station were closed for safety, effectively closing off Bardonecchia to everything but emergency services. Consequently, an ominous soundtrack of helicopter noise has underscored cleanup efforts today.
Honestly, for us locals, it’s heartbreaking to see. Bardonecchia is a charming town consistently ranked as one of the best-value places to go skiing in Europe. As a ski town on the border with France, Bardonecchia is a beloved spot for French, German, Swiss, and British tourists in addition to Italians.
In the spring and summer, we cross bridges lined with wooden planters bursting with colorful flowers. This morning those flowers lie limp, bathed in the muddy aftermath.
Mudslide Recovery Photogallery
Pro Loco Bardonecchia (Bardonecchia Tourist Board) has been hosting festivities all week in honor of Saint Hippolytus, the patron saint of Bardonecchia. So like us, when thousands of tourists came to holiday in Bardonecchia this week, they were not expecting to see what we hope is a once-a-lifetime event.
In the end, with so many people outside celebrating last night, we’re just relieved no one was lost or seriously injured in the mudslide.
On a personal note, while Paolo and I lost power and water last night, we’re fine. To be sure we know how lucky we are. To clarify, we’re heartbroken but physically fine.
For example, this morning after checking in with friends, Paolo and I went to see about my garden. Our neighbor Vincenzo kindly let me use a portion of his family plot this summer in Borgo Vecchio (the old neighborhood.) Much to my delight, my garden was fine. Especially surprising since the main riverbed involved is just across the street!
That is to say, the banks of the riverbed near borgo vecchio held back the mudslide enough to leave our garden unscathed. Unfortunately, in contrast, cars parked just feet away were not so lucky.
Seeing the cars caked in mud felt surreal. Like walking through the set of a disaster movie, only far more personal. Instead, this literally hit home.
Thankfully, there were four large excavators, each with its own sidekick backhoe already at work on mudslide cleanup early this morning. Our local Italian Red Cross has camps and hotels set up for the displaced and in true Italian small-town spirit, those who need it are finding help fast. Including bottles of water left outside near the church.