Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has blamed improper construction in flood plains for the devastating floods that struck Genoa and western Italy on Friday.
Floodwaters in western Italy left behind death and destruction
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi issued a statement on Saturday blaming illegal construction in flood plains designed to absorb sudden surges in water levels, after heavy rains caused chaos in the west of the country.
"It is evident that there was construction in areas where there should not have been," Berlusconi said.
Torrential rains lashed the Mediterranean port city of Genoa and the surrounding western Italian coastline on Friday and Saturday, triggering flash floods that broke the banks of two rivers and killed at least seven people, two of them children.
Residents urged to move to higher ground
Raging waters uprooted trees, swept away cars and gutted low-lying homes and shops. "People should avoid bridges and streams and not sleep on ground floors or in areas that are easily flooded," said a local emergency official Renata Briano.
Highways in the region and Genoa's airport have been closed, while the city's streets are largely deserted after a driving ban came into force. Dozens of people have been evacuated from the hilly Piemont region to the north after mudslides threatened several communities.
It is the second disaster to hit the region after 10 people died in flooding that swept the sea coast near Genoa on October 27.
The region, known as Cinque Terra in the province of Liguria, is a popular tourist destination. Local residents said they had not finished digging out of the mud from last week's flood as the new storm hit.
Author: Gregg Benzow (dpa, AP, AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Ben Knight