Hundreds of coffins were carried away and plunged into the seas after a landslide on Tuesday hit a graveyard in a village near Genoa.
Firemen and rescuers in Camogli, a cliff-side village near the northern city of Genoa, scrambled to rescue the coffins, many of which were damaged or destroyed after falling on the rocks about 50 metres below the cemetery.
Only a dozen coffins out of the more than 200 swept away had been recovered as of Tuesday afternoon.
Images of open and partially destroyed coffins floating in Camogli’s green waters were published by most Italian media and were shared widely on social media.
The landslide appears to have been caused by coastal erosion, aggravated by severe storms that hit the northern Liguria region in recent years. It also destroyed two chapels at the Camogli cemetery.
Genoa prosecutors have opened an investigation into the disaster, examining recent building works in the area, which they say could have played a role in the landslide.
Local news reports suggested that the slope at Camogli had started to suffer from instability problems after a major storm in 2018. Works to mitigate the instability on parts of the cliff are ongoing.
Families who lost their relatives’ remains at sea will be offered support, Camogli’s mayor said.
“We’ll do our best to identify the bodies also using DNA tests,” said Francesco Olivari. “We are also planning to create a team that would provide psychological support to those people, who are understandably under shock.”