Sulla pelle viva
Come si costruisce una catastrofe. Il caso del Vajont.
(On living flesh. How a catastrophe is built. The case of Vajont)
The book takes as its starting point 1956, the year in which the dam entered into the tormented history of the villages of Erto and Casso. Incidentally this book inspired the theatrical show by Marco Paolini – “Vajont 9 ottobre 1963. Orazione civile” (Vajont 9 October 1963. Civil oration) – which, among other things, had the merit of informing the television and media public about what happened with the Vajont. The dam was needed by SADE – private company for the production and distribution of electrical energy – as a reservoir which would supply the growing metallurgical industry of Porto Marghera (Venice). The enormous construction, 261 metres high with a capacity of 168,000,000 cubic metres of water was built in a geologically dangerous area. Despite surveys confirming this fact and warnings given by earth tremors, the work was completed in the Autumn of 1959. Fears grew from then on until 9 October 1963 and were echoed in the articles by Tina Merlin. Her statements were to no avail: the word of a journalist and a communist into the bargain, could only be false and tendentious. In addition: she was accused of being the bearer of a conservative economic culture compared to the development model which Italy had adopted in those years and which would have undoubtedly led to work and well-being for all. The engineers obstinately went ahead. Alternating filling and drawing off caused increasingly more frequent tremors. There are those who saw trees walk, but no alarm stopped the 22 tests from being carried out, not even the simulation done in Nove (a district in the Belluno area) in the summer of 1962, which gave an inkling of the extent of human tragedy if there were to be a landslide. The decision to nationalise the electricity industry accelerated the times of consignment of the perfectly operative work. The final filling began, accompanied by rock bursts and cracks, finally reaching 710 metres. On 7 October, engineers, designers, surveillance workers and local administrators started to get worried: worries which immediately turned to fear. It was decided to draw off water urgently before a disaster happened. What instead happened is that as the level of water gradually dropped, the mountain was no longer held back by the force of the water and started to slip along an inclined plane. In the evening of 9 October, 250 million cubic metres of rock fell into the lake raising a 100-metre high wave, which partly poured onto the villages of Erto, Casso, the hamlets of San Martino, Pineda, Spesse, Prada, Liron, Col della Ruava, Forcai, Valdapont and in particular onto Longarone. The day after, faced with a sea of mud, journalists like Indro Montanelli and Dino Buzzatti proclaimed the rebellion of nature, the perfection of the technically irreprehensible work, like jackals accusing all those who dared speak about man’s responsibility. The cost of so-called “progress” was 2000 dead. The book, written with full and detailed documentation on the various stages of construction of the dam, on the fight of the local people to stop it, on the fears and the final disaster, is the most rational and convincing direct testimony of a horrendous tragedy in which man forced nature’s limits in the name of “drugged” development.
Cierre Edizioni – Verona