Police Search For Irish Tourist In Tiber River

Wednesday, December 17th 2008, 9:26 am
By: News On 6

ROME – Police divers in Rome searched the swollen Tiber river Saturday for an Irish tourist who fell in while watching the waters rise from days of heavy rains that have thrashed much of Italy.

The rains stopped for a few hours Saturday but started again in the afternoon, and more rain was expected Sunday. Nevertheless, civil protection officials said the threat that the Tiber might burst its banks appeared to have receded.

The storms have claimed at least four lives and prompted the capital to declare a state of emergency.

Mayor Gianni Alemanno said Saturday the situation appeared under control, but he said the city had to be prepared for Sunday's expected storms.

On Saturday, Romans and tourists alike lined up along bridges to watch police divers and other rescue workers search the roiling currents for the Irish tourist identified by Carabinieri police as Vincent Thomas Wall, 27.

Police said he fell in overnight while watching the muddy river rise.

Italian farm lobby Coldiretti said the storms had caused millions of euros (dollars) in lost crops and damage, primarily in the south.

In Rome alone, one of the capital's most heavily trafficked pedestrian bridges — the Ponte Sant'Angelo near the Vatican — was closed as civil protection teams tried to free a barge that became unmoored and slammed into the bridge.

Despite the drama nearby, the traditional lighting of the Vatican's Christmas tree got under way as scheduled Saturday, albeit in a downpour.