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Italian Journal of Engineering Geology and Environment, 1 (2015)
© Sapienza Università Editrice
DOI: 10.4408/IJEGE.2015-01.O-ED
19 July 1985 - Stava, autonomous region of Trento (northern
Italy), 12:22:22. Yet another disaster: the downhill fl ow of about
180,000 m
of sand and mud due to the collapse of fl uorite tail-
ings ponds located on the slopes of Mount Prestavel. The ponds,
containing sand and mud, lay at an elevation of 1,300-1,400
m above sea level. After undergoing liquefaction, the material
reached the valley bottom at an estimated speed of about 90
km/h, destroying 62 buildings and 8 bridges and killing 268 peo-
ple (including 28 children below 10 years of age and 31 young
people in the 10-18 age range). This event, following the Vajont
dam disaster (with roughly 2,000 casualties), took on tragic di-
mensions, because it involved man-made tailings ponds from
mining operations. In particular, the settling ponds were built on
a high slope of a valley accommodating two villages, Tesero and
Stava. The disaster confi rmed the crucial importance of man-
aging dangerous activities by giving priority to safety, relying
on knowledge and not merely on profi t-making considerations.
Almost invariably, these events have an impact on the future of
people and of entire communities.
Pages of sorrow, solidarity and claims for justice have been
written about Stava. In the thirty years since the disaster, the
voice of technical experts and researchers but, above all, of the
victims’ families has never weakened. These people have coura-
geously and resolutely moved the issue forward: Stava is not to
be forgotten.
The leitmotiv has been: not to be forgotten, so that
these disasters never happen again.
Needless to say, our solidar-
ity and sympathy will never fi ll the gap of the loss of identity
caused by the death of entire families.
In view of the thirtieth anniversary of the Stava disaster, we
met an extraordinary person, Simona Zelasco, who became an
orphan in a matter of few seconds, when she was 17. Coura-
geously, year after year, overcoming her sorrow, Simona has
reminded all of us and institutions that we should not forget…
we should draw lessons from what happened at Stava on 19 July
1985… we should learn to say no when the lives of people, the
safety of our communities and environmental protection are at
risk and yet, often, we forget everything.
Thinking of the thirti-
di / by
. A
Scientifi c Editor-in-Chief
eth anniversary of Stava, she whispered: at a certain point, we
heard a noise, which was becoming stronger and stronger. We
all went to the balcony. In front of us, there was another small
home with a child inside. At 12:22:55, the wave of water and
mud swept everything. All of a sudden, I was alone, orphan, not
knowing what to do. I was 17. My life has since been dominated
by bereavement: from my university graduation to my fi rst love
disappointment, I have remained an orphan. I have been unable
to share all this with my beloved ones. At Stava, I lost my par-
ents, my brothers, everything. I do not know whether there is a
grief scale, but what happened left me with a profound sense of
injustice and fear.
Listening to these words produces a sense of emptiness and
dismay in every person, especially among researchers who,
throughout their lives and day by day, have been engaged in
disseminating the achievements of knowledge, with loads of
publications, reports, conference presentations and recommen-
dations to institutions: perhaps useless preaching.
Simona Zelasco, thirty years after the disaster: an example of strength
and courage