Around a dozen people were missing Saturday after heavy rains caused a landslide on the Italian island of Ischia, the interior minister said, but denied earlier reports that eight people were killed.
A wave of mud and debris swept down the hill in the small town of Casamicciola Terme in the early hours of the morning, engulfing at least one house and sweeping cars down to the sea, media reports and emergency services said.
Infrastructure minister and deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini was reported as saying that eight people had been confirmed dead, but his cabinet colleague later denied this.
"At the moment there are no confirmed deaths," interior minister Matteo Piantedosi said during a visit to emergency services helping coordinate the rescue.
He said the situation was evolving but was "very serious" and complicated, with 12 people missing, and people trapped under the mud.
Media reports had earlier put the missing at 13, but officials cautioned that, as poor weather conditions hampered the rescue effort, the exact picture was unclear.
One family with a newborn baby reported missing earlier were later found in hospital, a local authority official in Naples, Claudio Palomba, told the AGI news agency.
He added: "At the moment no bodies have been recovered."
The heavy rain sent torrents of mud through the streets, upturning trees and sweeping away cars, leaving them battered on the side of the road and some in the water, according to images published by emergency services and local media.
The fire service earlier said one house had been overwhelmed by the mud and that two people had been rescued from a car swept into the sea.
It said help was being sent from Naples, the nearest major city, but weather conditions were making it difficult to access the island.
"The search for the missing, evacuations and help for people in danger continues," added the department for civil protection in an update on Twitter.
"The rescue effort remains complex due to the weather conditions."
Local authorities have called on residents of Ischia to stay inside so as not to hinder the rescue operation.
In the worst affected area of Casamicciola Terme, at least 30 families were trapped in their homes without water or electricity, with mud and debris blocking the road, the ANSA news agency reported.
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said she was following the situation, offering her thoughts to those affected.
Casamicciola Terme was hit by an earthquake in 2017, in which two people died.
© Agence France-Presse