Pope Benedict XVI called Genoa’s cardinal on Saturday to express his solidarity with the residents of the port city where torrential floods have killed at least six people.
A state of alarm was in effect in several areas of Italy’s western coastal region of Liguria, a day after rains lashed it and Genoa, causing flash floods that broke the banks of at least two rivers. Four women and two children were killed.
The pope shared his “prayers for the victims and all the people hit by the disaster,” in a telephone call to Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the news agency ANSA reported.
Bagnasco visited the quarter hardest hit by the foods, telling residents: “The pain is great, but now it is time to roll up the sleeves.”
Earlier, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi blamed improper construction for preventing proper water runoff.
“It is evident that there was construction where there shouldn’t have been, but perhaps there can be intervention to prevent a repeat of these disasters,” Berlusconi said in a statement. “It is terrible to watch helplessly on TV the drama in Genoa, that has involved so many people.”
Genoa Mayor Marta Vicenzi has been criticized for allowing schools to open on Friday. An 18-year-old girl died with her brother when she went to pick him up from school for her mother, who was at work, according to Italian news reports.
Vicenzi defended her decision in an interview with the Rome daily La Repubblica, saying she did not want to create chaos and that open schools gave parents the possibility to identify shelter.
Another round of flooding in the Cinque Terre region of Liguria and neighboring Tuscany left at least nine dead late last month.