Fondazione Atlante, a pioneering charity in the Italian travel industry and presided by Amadeus, will concentrate its efforts to Rebuild Piazza Garibaldi (Garibaldi Square) an icon of tourism in Monterosso, following devastating flash floods that hit the Italian regions of Luguria and Tuscany last year.
On October 25th 2011, after a long and extraordinarily warm autumn, it started to rain incessantly in Liguria and Tuscany. In about three hours the village of Monterosso, in the Cinque Terre, received more than 20 inches of rain.
Complicated by a fast-moving tornado and landslides, these extraordinary atmospheric conditions radically and tragically changed the reality of the village in a matter of hours.
By mid-morning of the day of the flooding, trained emergency workers realized the danger of the situation and evacuated the schools in Monterosso. They also moved tourists and townspeople, who were taking cover in bars and restaurants, to their hotels or higher ground. In trying to get everyone safely out of harm's way, Monterosso lost one of her own: an emergency volunteer, Sandro Usai.
There is no way to explain the chaos and uncertainty of what was happening in the early afternoon hours of the 25th. Few phones remained with service so people were unable to contact each other. The downpour caused landslides that filled the six canals that run under Monterosso's streets and alleyways. Some canals exploded with debris, mud, sticks, stones, water and cars, leaving streets at 45 degree angles or turned into endless sinkholes. After the canals gave way, rivers one to two meters high formed in what were once streets, isolating people physically. Some were forced to break down walls to get to higher ground and were only found that evening when the water subsided a bit.
Everything seemed to happen in the dark, all day long the light was blocked out by the thick rain and storm clouds. The noise of pouring rain, rushing water and the debris rushing down the valley was deafening.
Everyone who was able to sleep that night got up eagerly, but cautiously, with the light on the morning of the 26th. The rain had ceased but Monterosso was buried. It was hard to believe that the awnings that remained that brushed your feet the day before used to hang well over your head. Families happily reunited. People were helping each other out of windows in bare feet and underwear, for the clothes they had worn the day before had been soiled with mud and were drenched.
Although worried and in danger, the entire population of Monterosso began to move the endless loads of mud, help distribute water and food, take care of the elderly, sick and children.
This optimism and determination have not changed during the past weeks of endless days of backbreaking work that is being done to get Monterosso back on its feet. This unbreakable spirit and tenacity, along with the generosity of everyone who has ever been touched by this extremely special corner of the world, will rebuild Monterosso to its former splendour.
The immediate concern is to restore the town to a point where the residents will be able to return to their homes comfortably. Already utilities of primary necessity have been reactivated. Most of the village now has gas (for cooking, heating and hot water), telephone service, electricity and drinkable water in their homes.
The administration of the township of Monterosso is diligently working towards restoring the social and economic life of the village.
The rebuilding is on-going and hopefully will be completed before the end of 2012. Fondazione Atlante is also collaborating with a famous sculptor in Italy, Mauro Staccioli, who is creating a WORK of ART dedicated to the memory of the tragic Monterosso flood.