Never Forget Vajont – 50yrs ago tonight

I wanted to blog about a place in the mountains (Dolomites)  we pass and have visited when we go up there for the summer. A place called Vajont and the disaster that happened there over 50 years ago this evening the 9th October at 10.39pm.

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The Vajont Dam is situated in Erto one of the towns which make up the area of the Friulian Dolomites Natural Park of Erto and Casso.

This morning Sky Italian news played small pieces on the disaster as its the 50th anniversary and im glad that they did! Making people especially the younger generation know what happened there so long ago

One of the reasons i know about this place is because we pass it every summer we go to the mountains on holiday and have visited there. And have seen the several documentaries/films about what happened. (some are on youtube if you have a look).

Also Alex has talked about it alot as his parents passed under the dam 24 hours before the disaster happened on their way back to Roma from their honeymoon in1963.

A Dam was built in the valley it was built as the tallest dam in the world across the Vajont gorge and all the studies they had done said the mountain Mount Toc was believed to be safe. The Dam was completed in October 1959 and in Feb 1960 they began to fill the basin with water.                               40248_457166503593_1689299_n

The villagers who lived in the towns below had not been happy that the Dam had been built. And in 1960 minor landslides and earth movement were noticed and so they stopped filling the basin with water which was already very high.

After some other warning signs they decided to do some tests with models of the Dam and discovered if there was a landslide the wave generated could top the Dam slightly. And so they decided to quickly lower the water in the basin down to 25m believing this would be safer.

This of course was a mistake as it just made what was about to happen all the more worse.

On the evening of October 9th at 10.39pm a huge landslide took place…earth, forest and rock slid into the basin at a speed of 110km’s per hour! No one had predicted the strength of what was happening as a megatsunami wave was created topping the Dam higher than anyone could have imagined!

Almost no one in the villages of Longarone, Pirago, Rivalta, Villanova and Faè  had a chance as the wave swept over them in a matter of minutes hitting them with such force and the towns were wiped from the face of the valley.

Killing more than 2,000 people in a matter of minutes and where they once lived into a flat mud plain.

Rescuers when they arrived didnt know or understand what had happened had to function in the dark looking for survivors which were not many trapped in the mud. And infact entire families lost all there members and those who did survive were traumatised for life.

Ironically the Dam still held with barely any damage and does still stand to this day!

Its scary to think whole towns and all those people could disappear in the matter of moments all because the people in charge didnt want to notice the warning signs that had been happening for 3 years previously. Their Dam and wonder of the world because of its height was more important than the safety of the people who lived below it.

And when they did finally begin to do something to prevent something from happening it was already to late. And alot of people had already known the disaster was going to happen as people who worked at the Dam had predicted it. Even the villagers had lived in fear knowing something could happen but not knowing the extent of what would occur!

I have seen the Dam with my own eyes and it is impressive, you can also still see where the mountain still bares the marks of the landslide.

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Its a strange place, quiet and beautiful but you can sense that something terrible has happened there. And even walking around the village on the hillside which is virtually empty there is an eerie peaceful silence.

I dont think we should ever forget such a man made disaster such as this and perhaps the biggest in Italy’s history.

And i would urge anyone passing that area to go and see the Dam and surrounding area for a few hours. See with your own eyes what happened and the Dam which i guess is now a monument to those who lost there lives that night.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ali Jackson
    Oct 09, 2013 @ 08:39:35

    Moving piece Claire – all the more poignant because Alex’s parents passed by only 24 hours earlier

    Reply

  2. ciro1
    Oct 09, 2013 @ 09:09:10

    Thanks 🙂 I think its important to remember things like this so they dont happen again. It also makes you realise how precious life is & to live it to the full x

    Reply

  3. Gil
    Oct 09, 2013 @ 20:13:22

    These tragedies are so sad. We visited Sarno, my paternal grandfather’s home town, in the Spring of 1998 (?) a few months later half the town got washed down the mountain by heavy rain. See: http://www.nytimes.com/1998/05/11/world/italian-town-buries-90-after-mudslide.html

    We had a dam burs in the next town over from me a little over 50 years ago too. It was an old earthen dam. See: http://www.norwichbulletin.com/x267283254/Bill-Stanley-6-died-when-dam-burst-Norwich-flooded Strange about the 50 year thing.

    Hugs Peanut!

    Reply

  4. ciro1
    Oct 10, 2013 @ 11:06:43

    I didnt know about Sarno! thanks for sharing the link! 🙂 Thats very weird it was 50yrs ago as well! :O Peanut sends a hug back x

    Reply

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