Flash floods kill 11 hikers in Italy

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Rome : At least 11 hikers were killed in flooding caused by heavy rain in the southern Italian region of Calabria, officials said on Tuesday.

The hikers were walking in the Raganello Gorge in Pollino National Park in the region when they were hit by a torrent swollen by heavy rain. The Civil Protection Department said that 10 bodies were found on Monday, including that of a 14-year-old girl, while another person died in hospital.

Another five people were still missing. Rescue operations started immediately after a small stream near the village of Civita overflowed, the BBC reported.

Eleven people were injured in the flash floods, out of whom those with serious injuries were admitted to hospitals in Cosenza and the rest in the city of Castrovillari, officials said.

Search and rescue teams were able to save 23 people, including several children. However, more people might be missing as several groups were visiting the area, according to authorities.

Carlo Tansi, head of civil protection, told reporters that when the hikers were hit by the water they were "catapulted out like bullets" and were washed down the valley for about 3 kilometres.

"The Raganello Gorge is narrow and tall, it can get up to 1 kilometre high," he said. "The gorge filled up with water in a really short time."

Luca Franzese of the alpine rescue squad in Calabria said the height of the flood waters was some eight feet deep.

"The wave of flooding of the Raganello stream happens often in the winter, but it has never happened in the summer, when the stream is very popular among tourists," he told the news agency ANSA.

The nationalities of the hikers were not immediately known, although the Corriere della Sera newspaper said one of the injured was Dutch.