On this Day, 57 years ago, on 9 October 1963, the Vajont Dam disaster in northern Italy killed some 2000 people.

It was part natural disaster and part man-made. The hydroelectric dam as such was an engineering marvel (at 262 metres the highest in the world at the time, and still in the top ten), BUT: the mountainside to the south of the reservoir that formed in front of the dam when it was completed turned out to be unstable. This geological fragility had been recognized and warnings were voiced – but the relevant government officials preferred to ignore all this.

And so the catastrophe on 9 October unfolded. Late in the evening, the side of Mt Toc did collapse and the massive landslide that ensued displaced 50 million cubic metres of water from the reservoir in just a few seconds. The gigantic wave of water that formed overshot the dam’s crest and surged down the valley to the little town of Longarone. Most of the residents had already gone to bed and thus were hit by the tsunami in their sleep. Some villages further upstream, such as Erto, were also severely damaged and lives were lost there too.

The dam itself, however, held – even though some sources claim the pressure it faced when the water hit it may have been stronger than the Hiroshima bomb’s blast. Yet only the crest got scraped a bit. But the dam as such still stands to this day. However, since much of the reservoir was filled with debris from the landslide the dam had become useless.

It is now a local visitor attraction and you can go on guided tours (in Italian) that takes visitors along a metal walkway that has been constructed on the dam’s crest. You thus get to the spot where the operating building stood that was washed away by the wave; now you can look down into the abyss behind the dam from here. It’s still a very impressive sight to behold (not for vertigo sufferers!).

A small chapel to the side of the dam serves as a memorial to the victims, and there are also several plaques, both here and at the entrance to a road tunnel that the access road to Vajont passes through just before it reaches the dam. Information panels provide some background.

In addition there’s a small museum in one of the villages on the shores of the ex-reservoir that also tells the story of the 1963 disaster.

Here are some photos (beginning with the same one as above):


metal walkway installed on the crest of Vajont dam


the 262m abyss behind Vajont dam


behind the dam – the rebuilt town of Longarone in the distance


nature reclaiming the filled-in ex-reservoir in front of the dam


mountainside still scarred from the landslide



remnants of the reservoir, Erto in the distance


ruin in Erto


[Adaped from a post on my purged Facebook page on 9 October 2017 – see archive]





Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on reddit
Share on tumblr
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Share on whatsapp

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

sign up to the newsletter!

Islands of Dark Tourism

In this post I want to take you off the beaten track and to some less well explored, more exotic, remote locations. The eight selected places have only one thing in common: they are all islands. Other than that they are very different from each other and represent a range of distinct categories of dark tourism that dark globe trotters visit for very different reasons.

Of course there are well-known dark islands, too, such as Alcatraz or Robben Island, both former prison islands turned memorials, which today attract large numbers of visitors and hence overlap with mainstream tourism; but here we are going to get further away from that.

Read More »

Budapest in 2022

This past Whitsun weekend I was in Budapest. Even though it’s just a 2 ½ hour train ride from Vienna (where I live) I hadn’t been to this fabulous capital city of Hungary since October 2008, so a re-visit was overdue. I had only a bit over 48 hours there but used the time well. Here’s a short report with some selected photos:

In terms of dark tourism my first priority was a sight that I learned about only after my previous visit to Budapest. That’s the Hospital in the Rock and

Read More »

A Major Change at a Place that Changed the World

Last Friday I received a press release from the NIA (Norsk Industri-Arbeidermuseum – or ‘Norwegian Industrial Workers Museum’) at Vemork near Rjukan in the Telemark region of southern Norway – and immediately decided that this deserves a new Blog post here as well!

I visited Vemork as part of my long Norway (+ Svalbard, Boden and Murmansk) trip in the summer of 2012, so

Read More »