Landslide In Italy Takes Thousands of Lives – 10/9/1963

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October 9, 1963 was considered a nightmare for Italy. This day, a landslide created a ripple of massive wave in a dam, leading to the death of more than 2,000 people.

The dam in question was Diga del Vajont. This was built in Vaiont Gorge, located 10 miles of northeast of Belluno. The dam was intended to supply Northern Italy with hydroelectric power. It rose to 875 above the Piave River with a full base of 75 feet wide. It was also designed as a water reservoir, having the capacity to hold more than 300,000 cubic feet of water. While the dam was solidly built, the same cannot be said for its location.

Vaiont Gorge was clearly a bad choice, this being located in an area of the Alps which was considered unstable. The incident of October 9, 1963 proved that it was a mistake to build the dam in the said location. During this day, 90 inches of heavy rains devastated the area. By the time that the clock hit 10:41 P.M., the wet land collapsed, creating a landslide that came crashing down from Mount Toc. Piles of dirt and rock came plunging directly into the reservoir at about 70 miles per hour, which created an uncontrollable wave, rising as high as 300 feet beyond the level of the dam.

The workers living just alongside the dam were instantly killed. The water that was displaced by the dam speedily came crashing into the Piave River below, engulfing the town of Longarone in a terrible tragedy. Within minutes, the town was destroyed, taking with it nearly more than 2,000 lives. Then, the tsunami-like wave came rushing down to San Marino, where hundreds of people were killed by its wrath.

After the incident, the dam’s engineer, Mario Pancini, was summoned to appear before a court. Authorities wanted him to answer questions regarding the geology of the dam’s site before its construction started. He committed suicide before the scheduled date of his appearance.

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Nancy Reyes

Senior Writer

One of our top senior writers, Nancy came to us wanting to break away from the politics that comes with major news corporations. She leads our team of historical writers in creating the best engaging content out there that keeps our readers coming back for more. She is an enthusiast of all things medieval and has been a member of her renaissance fair group for 15 years. She received her degree in International Relations from the University of Southern California and hopes to one day travel the world.