Three dead, six missing in Sicily blast as search continues

Firefighters on the Italian island of Sicily searched through piles of rubble Sunday for survivors of a massive blast that toppled multiple residential buildings and killed at least three people.

Although two women were recovered alive from the debris early Sunday following the buildings’ collapse Saturday night in the southern town of Ravanusa, six people remained missing and Sicily’s regional civil protection unit confirmed three deaths.

Television images showed a mass of rubble, wooden beams and mangled steel in a large empty space, with neighbouring buildings charred and damaged. 

“Since this morning when we saved two women, for a few hours now we haven’t heard signals under the rubble,” Luca Cari, the spokesman for Italy’s national firefighters, told Sky TG24 television. 

The civil protection unit said on its website that “four buildings were involved” in the incident, but local news reports said the number was higher. 

 – ‘Huge shock wave’ –

A “huge shock wave” from the explosion was felt 100 metres (328 feet) away, said Salvatore Cocina, head of the regional civil protection unit.

“The gas probably found a cavity in which to accumulate,” the head of firefighters in the province of Agrigento, Giuseppe Merendino, told the Rainews24 TV channel.

The two women who were uncovered alive under the rubble were found by sniffer dogs, Merendino said.

“We have to look for spaces between the rubble to recover the missing,” he said. 

Soon after the explosion, Ravanusa Mayor Carmelo D’Angelo appealed on Facebook for “everyone available who has shovels and bulldozers”.

About 50 people have been displaced due to the incident, D’Angelo told Rainews24.

Many homes and other structures constructed in past decades were built using cheap, sub-par materials that make them more prone to collapse, often because of interference in building contracts by the Mafia. 

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