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Italy marks 60 years since Vajont Dam disaster

Vajont Dam disaster occurred 60 years ago today.

Italy marks the 60th anniversary of the Vajont Dam disaster which claimed the lives of almost 2,000 people in the Piave valley, in the northern Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, on the night of 9 October 1963.


Italian president Sergio Mattarella on Monday will visit the Fortogna cemetery to commemorate the victims of the disaster which occurred when a vast landslide collided into the artificial reservoir formed by the dam over the Vaiont river.


The landslide, comprising around 260 million cubic metres of rocks from Monte Toc, created a massive inland tsunami that reached up to 200 metres above the dam.

Electricity in the surrounding area went off suddenly at 22.39, moments before the giant tidal wave - travelling at 80 km p/h - ripped through the narrow valley below.


The wall of water engulfed the nearby town of Longarone, drowning around 80 per cent of its inhabitants, including more than 300 entire families.


It also caused widespread deaths and destruction in the neighbouring villages of Faè, Pirago, Rivalta, and Villanova, with many of the bodies never found.


The Vajont Dam disaster occurred on the night of 9 October 1963.


The dam, which remained largely intact after the disaster, was designed by Italian engineer Carlo Semenza in the 1920s, however construction by the Società Adriatica di Elettricità (SADE) did not begin until the late 1950s.


The lake created by the dam was intended to generate hydroelectric power to meet growing demand from the rapidly-industrialising north.


However authorities had dismissed numerous warnings that Monte Toc, to the southern side of the basin, was geologically unstable.


The Vajont dam disaster devastated the Piave valley.

The 262-metre high dam, hailed as the tallest of its kind in the world, was inaugurated in 1960, and two years later it was nationalised by the Italian ministry of public works.


The dam still stands to this day however the reservoir has never been refilled.


Tonight more than 130 theatres across Italy will stage Marco Paolini's choral show VajontS 23, which gives voice to the victims of the landslide and will end at 22.39, the exact moment that the disaster struck 60 years ago.
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