National Geographic : 1967 Jul
the Arno Valley was filling, the Sieve River was pump ing unknown tons of high-velocity sludge through the narrow confluence east of Florence. The telephone rang shortly after midnight in the home of Lt. Col. Nicola Bozzi, chief of the Florentine carabinieri.He had retired early in anticipation of a busy day on the fourth, a national holiday celebrating the 48th anniversary of the Italian armistice in World War I. The city's narrow streets and dozens of piazzas were decked with flags-the red Florentine lily on a field of white, and the Italian tricolor of green, white, and red (right), all drooping now in torrential rain. "Pronto!" It was a distress call relayed from the Valdarno district. The Arno was raging out of its banks. Roads were sinking. Families were marooned on rooftops. Colonel Bozzi could not have known it, but water was already beginning to trickle into the basements of riverside homes east of Florence. Cats moved away on silent feet. In deserted streets the covers of old sewers began to bubble and bleed thin streams. (Continued on page 17) Furious cataracts, laden with rubble, roar through the streets and toss automobiles about like corks. Trapped citizens watch the frightening spectacle from a balcony overlooking an intersection near the cathe dral. Anticipating a holiday, most Florentines were asleep when the Arno River surged over its banks at dawn. Within hours, 17 people perished in the city as 11,000 abandoned their homes.