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Cinque Terre – Rescue in Riomaggiore!

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You go on a vacation in Cinque Terre, Italy, you are in a relax mode and all of a sudden, an unforeseen event makes you active again. Journalistic reflex or maybe just human curiosity, I have no idea, all I know was that I was in the very first line of all the people gathered to watch, using to a maximum the camera and the phone…

A quiet morning in Riomaggiore. Nothing announces what was about to happen… The small port is unbelievable! I take the boat. Today I planned to visit two neighboring villages.

When I come back to Riomaggiore, an ambulance deafens me with its sirens passing by me and the rest of the tourists on the narrow main street of the village. We look to see what happens. Probably someone is sick from the sun – I tell myself and go up the hill to my room.

A terrible noise makes me get out on the balcony. I see a helicopter over the port and a person going down from it. Ooops, this is definitely not a good sign. Although I am all sweaty from going up the hill, full of dust after a day of traveling around and very tired, I take my camera and go down to the port.


The small port is full of people gathered as if for a show. Some take pictures, others speak in different languages about what happened and I catch the “breaking news”: a young tourist went up the rocks, just like many others to jump from there into the sea. Maybe she chose the wrong rock or maybe she did not jump right, the idea is she hurt her back on the rocks. Terrible! (Someone says she hit the rocks under the water). I tremble at the thought of the pain the poor woman is in.

Curiosity is what keeps us gathered around there.

I see more and more saviors come there. Doctors and nurses come from the village, the Coast Guard is on the sea, three men came down from the helicopter… All these and the victim’s friend supervise her immobilizing in order to be taken from here by helicopter.

This is the first aid corner. In a small port, narrow, with buildings on both sides… And there’s a helicopter trying to do its job… The noise is deafening, and yet nobody leaves. Apart from curiosity, there is a concern for the woman’s fate. We all need a happy-end for this terrible story…

The helicopter has no place to land. It’s impossible here, in the port. Yet it keeps coming down slowly, making us all wet. I have to clean the lens of the camera repeatedly with my T-shirt…

People from a boat can hardly stay in it, trying to save the pneumatic boat too. The doctors shout to the people who are on the rocks in the water to leave, as they are in danger there.

The doctors are taken, one by one, to the helicopter. Thanks to the signs on the touristic trails, I know that when you put your hands up in the form of a bird, this means “yes”. Probably the sign that you are ready to be taken up.

I watch what the man in the helicopter does… His maneuvers during the procedure…

The tension is difficult to be put into words…

The victim is connected to one of the saviors and they both are ready to be taken up. The woman shouts every now and then. I get goose bumps when I hear the screams…

We all look at the pick-up. We are all nervous, because the last part is terrifying:

P.S. One year after this unhappy event, back to Cinque Terre, I went to the Riomaggiore emergency service and gave them a card with all the photos and movies I had taken during the rescue operation. That is what I felt. I have a profound respect for the intervention units and I thought they don’t get a lot of chances to see themselves from the “spectator’s” point of view…

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